Report: Climate Change Will Put Indiana Hazardous Waste Sites At Risk

Nov 19, 2019

Climate change is expected to mean more flooding in Indiana and that could put the state’s hazardous waste sites — and the people who live near them — at risk. That’s according to a new report on Superfunds from the Government Accountability Office. 

The GAO report shows that more than half of all Superfund sites across the country will be put at risk due to climate change — from sea level rise, storm surges, wildfires, and flooding. You can see the ones in Indiana through this interactive map.

Alfredo Gomez directs the agency’s natural resources and environment team. He says flooding at an Indiana Superfund site could shut off the power to equipment that’s treating the hazardous waste or cause it to malfunction. And if the waste is in an open container, like a lagoon.

“If you have really extreme flooding, you could be dispersing those contaminants,” Gomez says.

But some regional branches of the Environmental Protection Agency say they don’t consider climate change when designing remedies or risk assessments for Superfunds. Gomez says EPA headquarters has to give its regions the info and guidance they need to prepare.

“So those are things that we expect EPA to look at and look to see on a site specific level what what needs to be done,” he says.

The GAO also recommends that the EPA add addressing climate change back into its strategic plan — which was taken out by the Trump administration.

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.