We’re already aware of threats to public health and the environment caused by burying coal ash and other toxic waste — including garbage transported from distant cities. Cancer-causing heavy metals and arsenic contained in these waste-streams can get into groundwater, wetlands, creeks and rivers, polluting drinking water, wildlife habitat and fish eaten by local residents.
Such harmful pollutants are especially troublesome in low-lying areas like South Georgia, where groundwater is near the surface, wetlands interlace many properties, and waterways abound.
Now we are faced with added risks imposed by unsafe disposal of these waste-materials due to rising sea-level, more frequent flooding, and intensified storms with winds that push floodwaters across vast areas. The recently released National Climate Assessment, carefully reviewed and authored by a team of well-qualified scientists, is quite conclusive about the adversities of these trends.
The report warns that seas could rise as much as eight feet by the year 2100, describing climate-related damage that is already occurring due to global temperatures rising nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900.
As vividly demonstrated by this year’s hurricanes, super-storms cause perilous flooding, inundating not only landfills, but sewers and septic systems, where contaminants can be released into waters supplies, fish habitat and developed areas.
As floodwaters recede, residual toxins will jeopardize the health of communities lying in harm’s way, degrading quality-of-life for decades.
These growing hazards must be accounted for in regulatory reforms. We must not allow South Georgia to become a “sacrifice zone” for the negligent dumping of toxic waste.
Center for a Sustainable Coast