Sarah Lamdan, Professor of Law at CUNY Law School, co-authored this post, which is part of CPR's From Surviving to Thriving: Equity in Disaster Planning and Recovery report.
This chapter is excerpted from a law review article that is forthcoming in U. Arkansas Law Review, titled "Taking a Page from FDA’s Prescription Medicine Information Rules: Reimagining Environmental Information for Climate Change."
In August 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the southern United States in rapid succession. These massive hurricanes wrought widespread devastation — destroying buildings, flooding neighborhoods, and taking lives. Harvey shattered the national rainfall record for a single storm, dropping more than 50 inches of rain in a 36-hour period. Thousands of stranded Houstonians waded through chest-deep floodwaters. Unbeknownst to them, those residents were wading through more than just water. Many storm victims were in fact wading through a toxic stew. The same floodwaters that filled the streets had also inundated scores of industrial facilities and at least 13 of Houston’s 41 Superfund sites. According to the Houston Chronicle, “In all, reporters cataloged more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases — on land, in water and air. Most were never publicized.”