Community Vulnerability to Pollutant Releases
Extreme events may result in pollutant releases from contaminated sites and waste facilities, putting communities at risk of exposure. A community vulnerability mapping approach to evaluate the risk of releases from contaminated sites and waste management facilities is presented to support extreme event preparedness and adaptation planning. Indicators were developed and mapped in case study communities Maricopa County, AZ and Waterbury, CT to identify vulnerable areas for further investigation and planning (e.g., hazard mitigation, post-event response and recovery). Communities continue to be hit, often unexpectedly, by the effects of prolonged droughts, excessive heat, extreme floods, and more intense and frequent wildfires. In places where contaminated sites and hazardous waste facilities are present, communities are vulnerable to pollutant release exposures following extreme events. Our approach could support planning and adaptive solutions for community resilience in these extreme situations. This work provides a greater understanding of the type and magnitude of potentially hazardous sites by examining them under extreme weather scenarios due to climate change. Combined with geospatial information on community characteristics, we can visualize where the most vulnerable populations are that have the least resources and may be impacted the most in environmental emergencies. The technology leveraged included publicly available geospatial datasets, population characteristics, and climate scenario data, analyzed to create indicators and maps in ArcGIS Pro. Our work exemplifies to the geodesign community that with the right combination of geographic information, public data, thoughtful analysis and reliable mapping tools, pressing issues in the field can be addressed without complicated technology. Looking at only where contaminated sites and waste facilities are located is not the whole picture. By considering how and where contaminants may travel, we can better project which communities are at high risk of hazard exposure during an extreme event. The application of mapping in this project is a salient example of how geographic visualization of scenarios can support community decision makers to focus and prioritize resources more efficiently in preparation for extreme climate events.