EDF Urges EPA to Protect Americans from Possible Release of Toxic Pollution During Hurricane Florence

September 13, 2018
Sharyn Stein, 202-572-3396, sstein@edf.org

With Hurricane Florence threatening the Southeastern U.S., Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) today calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to act on the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Predictable failures during Harvey, particularly in the arena of pollution monitoring, exacerbated the impact of the storm and needlessly exposed local residents to toxic chemicals and other health threats. 

“Hurricane Harvey put into stark relief the toxic disaster these types of storms can leave in their wake.” said EDF scientist Elena Craft. “EPA must act quickly to protect the health of families in the path of Hurricane Florence. To do so requires providing people with a real-time understanding of exposure to toxics unleashed by the storm.”

To make sure that residents have access to the best information about how to keep their families safe, EDF calls on EPA to:

  • Coordinate with industry about possible shutdowns and spills to minimize the impacts of pollution on the public.
  • Deploy personnel and equipment in advance of the storm to minimize gaps in data collection on potential sources of pollution that present a risk to public health and safety.
  • Develop a plan for active air quality monitoring and surveillance, with the expectation that the agency deploys mobile sampling equipment during disasters and times of limited coverage from stationary monitors.
  • Share as much information as it can about environmental sampling in real time – even if data is still under review for quality assurance – because the public should know about any pollution hazard. Also, refrain from making statements about impacts to public health – or absence of impacts – unless data fully supports them.
  • Immediately implement the Chemical Disaster Rule, which protects citizens and first responders and has been sidelined by the Trump administration.

The decrease in EPA’s overall capacity – it has shrunk by more than 1,000 experts and staff during the Trump administration, and suffered long term funding declines – cannot be remedied immediately. But aggressive action by Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler can help protect the health of families across the Carolinas and other states in the path of the storm.

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