Online Tool Shows WWTPs Affected by Harvey

The Union of Concerned Scientists has uploaded an interactive map showing the hurricane's impact on Houston's infrastructure
Online Tool Shows WWTPs Affected by Harvey
(Photo by U.S. Department of Defense)

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As those in the water/wastewater industry know all too well, it’s not only homes that must be evaluated and rebuilt in the months following Hurricane Harvey’s devastation. The area surrounding Houston, Texas, is also home to hundreds of public and private facilities vital to infrastructure — and many of them were (or still are) underwater.

Harvey’s floodwaters have brewed up a toxic mess of chemicals and waste from overburdened treatment plants, numerous types of chemical facilities, refineries, liquefied natural gas import/export terminals, power plants and natural gas processing plants.

To get a handle on the scope of Houston’s infrastructure problems, the Union of Concerned Scientists built an interactive map detailing the many facilities potentially affected by Harvey. It uses data from the Dartmouth Flood Observatory paired with data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

While the Gulf Coast is known for an oil and chemical industry featuring more than 4,500 facilities, the UCS reported that wastewater treatment plants made up the majority of the facilities vulnerable to flooding from Harvey — 430 were pinpointed.

“This analysis is based on preliminary data on flood extent and should be considered approximate,” reads a statement on UCS’s online tool. “As additional sources of data and information become available, the precise extent of flooding and degree of infrastructure exposure will be mapped in more detail.”

Meanwhile, Houston Health Department spokesperson Porfirio Villarreal told the New York Times the floodwaters in the city are dangerously toxic. “There’s no need to test it,” he told the newspaper. “It’s contaminated. There’s millions of contaminants.”



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