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Flooding exacerbates pollution exposure in at-risk urban communities

flood

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Increasing flooding in the US is exposing more people to industrial pollution, especially in racially marginalized urban communities, according to new research from Rice University, New York University and Brown University.

Thomas Marlow, a postdoctoral researcher at NYU Abu Dhabi, said industrial activity has not only contributed to climate change, but has left huge amounts of pollution on land that will continue to endanger people as the water rises. Marlow is the lead author of “Future Flooding Raises Unequal Exposure Risks to Relict Industrial Pollution,” published today in Letters for environmental research

“We wanted to explore where those dynamics will affect different communities in the coming years,” he said.

The scientists focused on six different U.S. cities (Houston; Philadelphia; Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; New Orleans; and Providence, Rhode Island), combining historical data on former hazardous manufacturing facilities with future flood risks projected down to the address level. They found that more than 6,000 former industrial sites that are likely still a source of significant soil contamination are at increased risk of flooding over the next 30 years. These sites are disproportionately located in lower-income communities of color.

“We found that the sites of greatest concern are clustering and creating zones of increasing risk in areas currently home to more than 560,000 residents,” said Jim Elliott, professor and chair of sociology at Rice. “Analysis further shows that racial minorities, lower-income people and people living in multi-family housing disproportionately live in these areas, regardless of the city in question.”

Scott Frickel, professor of sociology at Brown, said the findings show the urgent need for new cleanup strategies.

“In particular, we need to rethink site-based strategies for clearing urban lands polluted by past industrial activities,” he said. “This work should engage and engage residents of historically marginalized communities in effort planning as government agencies at all levels work to make their cities more resilient and environmentally friendly, especially in the era of climate change.”

“The good news is that if we act now, we can not only address the problem, but also help build more equitable and resilient cities,” Elliott concluded.

The researchers plan to build on this work by helping local for-profit and non-profit organizations address the challenges of urban flooding.


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More information:
Thomas Marlow et al, Future flooding increases uneven exposure risks to industrial pollution remnants, Letters for environmental research (2022). DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac78f7

Provided by Rice University


Quote: Floods exacerbate pollution exposure in high-risk urban communities (2022, June 28) retrieved June 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-exacerbates-pollution-exposure-at-risk-urban.html

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