The path of Hurricane Irma through the Deep South and Southeast is still uncertain, but North Carolinians living near any of the state’s 39 Superfund sites should be cautious if flooding damages those highly contaminated areas. Irma is expected to hit Florida on Sunday; forecasters are predicting the storm will then turn north and head through Georgia, but it’s too soon to tell if Irma will pass west — or through — North Carolina. Now a Category 5 storm, Irma will likely lose some energy as she passes over land.
North Carolina’s federal Superfund sites are distributed throughout the state, and include old pesticide dumps, buried chemicals and PCB-contaminated soil. The links in the table below will take you to the Environmental Protection Agency’s information about the site, including the address, the type of contamination and the state of the cleanup.
Of course, these 39 sites are not the extent of the widespread contamination in North Carolina. There are state-run Superfund sites, old landfills, abandoned industrial plants, mercury deposits, leaking underground and aboveground petroleum storage tanks, groundwater plumes tainted by dry cleaning solvents, plus coal ash ponds, swine manure lagoons and other livestock waste. (This is why it’s important not to wade into floodwaters unless there is no choice.)
In Houston, Hurricane Harvey flooded seven Superfund sites, designated by the federal government as some of the most polluted areas. The inundation increases the chance that petrochemicals and other toxic pollutants have been released into the environment.