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EPA Enforcement Programs Vulnerable to Climate Change

Superfund siteThe EPA has outlined a number of areas in which its enforcement programs will be vulnerable to the effects of climate change, along with some ways the agency can start adapting its activities to cope.

The EPA on Friday released 17 climate change adaptation implementation plans for its various regions and offices – such as the office of water, and the office of air and radiation – to support President Obama’s executive order on climate adaptation.

The office of solid waste and emergency response identified a number of vulnerabilities, including increased contaminant migration; management of surges in waste, particularly from the impacts of extreme weather events; and potential for decreased remedy effectiveness, which must be considered during the remedy selection, clean-up, and post-cleanup phases. The office said that to address changing climate conditions, hazardous waste permitting requirements may need to be updated, remediation and containment strategies used in construction may need to be strengthened, and spill prevention plans may need to be changed.

In addition, remedies previously deemed “complete” may no longer be protective, as climate conditions change at site, the office says.

Meanwhile, the office of chemical safety and pollution prevention said its efforts could be affected by extreme weather events that increase run-off to streams, and by changing pesticide use patterns. New climate conditions could alter what pests and disease are present or where crops are grown. Weather datasets used by some pesticide exposure models are increasingly outdated, the office noted.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

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