Environmental Impacts of a Flood: Preparedness

Posted on September 7th, 2011

It has been over a week since Hurricane Irene had barreled through the region; however, the effects of the storm persist.  Strong winds downed power lines and rushing waters collapsed portions of Route 287 and the Garden State Parkway. Flooding occurred in many areas that have never previously been affected.

55-Gallon Drum Floating in Raritan River, Bridgewater, New JerseyCommunities are rallying to return to pre-disaster conditions as quickly as possible; however, the effects of a flood can cause significant environmental risks. New Jersey is a state where many residents utilize oil to heat their homes and there are many industrial corporations that utilize hazardous substances in their operations. What happens when twenty 55-gallon drums filled with mineral spirits are carried away by the flood waters?  What about the residential aboveground heating oil storage tank that was lifted by the force of the flood and floated away?  The risk of introducing chemicals into the environment during a flood is high.

Real incidents like these scenarios occurred as a result of the storm, as observed in Bridgewater, New Jersey.  (Star Ledger article most important lesson is to prepare.   In the above situations—the drums should have been moved to a safe location and the homeowner could make sure the AST is anchored to a concrete pad and that an extended vent pipe is installed so that water cannot enter the tank.  

With a little bit of fore thought, environmental impacts could be minimized or not occur at all.  As Governor Chris Christie said “We are not overreacting, we need to be ready…” (Ewing, Thursday, August 25, 2011- in preparations for Hurricane Irene).  The same sentiments could apply to environmental risks as well.

Bernie Andersen
Project Manager

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