Monday, December 11, 2017

Brownfields and Climate Change, what’s the connection?

Like Climate Change, Brownfields don’t tend to get noticed by the public until the big picture is understood, experts examine the evidence, and someone’s best interests (including their health) gets compromised. Often this processing of ours takes a long time, as both Climate Change and too many Brownfields have languished without adequate action. 

As Climate Change progresses in our Rochester region with more heavy rainfall in the spring, it is more likely that Brownfields that have not been cleaned up will leach dangerous chemicals into our soil, our neighborhoods, and our waters. [See: ‘Figure 2.18: Observed Change in Very Heavy Precipitation’ in the National Climate Assessment’s “Heavy Downpours Increasing”.]

Even the new* Environmental Protection Agency understands the urgency of getting Brownfields cleaned up as a Climate Change adaptation strategy.

Why Mitigation and Adaptation Matter for Brownfield Communities | Many members of vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly, low-income communities of color and tribal communities, live close to brownfields and other blighted properties (EPA, 2015b). Brownfield redevelopment presents opportunities to reduce blight and improve the quality of life for vulnerable populations while mitigating the impacts of climate change. While all populations will be affected by climate change, vulnerable populations will be disproportionately affected as climate change continues to increase the burden they already experience. A report by the Centers for Disease Control National Center for Health Statistics found that heat- and cold-related deaths in the United States are highest among non-Hispanic black populations and low-income populations making less than $42,400 annually. This study also found that heat-and cold-related deaths are significantly greater among elderly individuals in the United States. (Page 7, Climate Smart Brownfields Manual)

In Rochester, we are still trying to deal with past industrial pollution, but few people realize this environmental health problem is also a Climate Change problem.

STUDENTS, PARENTS STAGE PROTEST OVER CHEMICALS DETECTED NEAR ROCHESTER PREP ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- A steady downpour of rain did not dampen the passion behind the voices of dozens of students who gathered for a demonstration outside of Rochester Prep Tuesday.  They were protesting over recent reports that traces of trichloroethylene (TCE), a carcinogenic chemical solvent from a former industrial site, remain near St. Paul Street and Martin Street. (December 5, 2017) Spectrum News Rochester [more on Brownfields in our area]


You can find out more about Brownfields in our state and even check out the progress of local cleanups by going to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Restoration Program.

We go into Climate Change with the environment we have. If our environment (our life support system) is not as healthy and resilient as possible, trying to address this worldwide warming crisis will profoundly affect our ability to adapt.

Time passes.


* The ‘new’ EPA is that federal environmental protection agency now under Pruitt. Strangely, the old EPA exists as a parallel online entity that has been kept alive. The new EPA says of the old EPA “This website is historical material reflecting the EPA website as it existed on January 19, 2017. This website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.” (When you think about it, things over at the EPA have gotten very weird—not in a good way.) 

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