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See a map of Bay Area hazardous sites threatened by rising seas

After hearing feedback from shoreline residents and local officials in a series of virtual community workshops that the work was informative but did not estimate the riskiest scenarios, the scientists updated their draft with a scenario most extreme in which the West Antarctic ice sheets are collapsing.

If that happens, San Francisco Bay could rise 10.1 feet by 2100.

The differences in the scientific modeling scenarios before the year 2050 are minor, but they diverge considerably after mid-century. The results depend on greenhouse gas emissions, which humans will determine by the rate at which they burn fossil fuels.

“It was important to consider the worst-case scenario because, unfortunately, our leaders, especially at the federal level, failed to rise to the challenge of addressing climate change,” Cushing said.

The researchers also used federal groundwater data to examine how rising ocean waters would bring fresh water up from the ground.

The search highlights the Hunters Point Shipyard and a cluster of other dangerous sites in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood of San Francisco. And dozens of power plants, refineries, landfills and other industrial sites line communities like East Palo Alto, Richmond, Oakland and San Jose.

“[Sea level rise] can increase the risk of groundwater encroachment, especially at sites where there are toxic contaminants in the soil, or even in the groundwater,” Morello-Frosch said.

This is especially important to understand, she said, for places where toxic contamination is in the ground with a cap — often made of concrete, clay, or solid plastic-like materials — holding it in place. to protect the public and the environment. The problem with these plugs: rising groundwater from below could eat away at the pollution, spreading it to other areas, or bringing that contaminated water above ground, exposing people and the San Francisco Bay itself.

The scientist’s findings pose a significant risk. But they note that understanding the effect of sea level rise and groundwater encroachment on each hazardous facility will require site-specific data. This could include the level of contamination, depth of groundwater, existing caps or levees and other protective measures.

“It’s important to develop these tools because you want to bring all of this data together in one place,” Morello-Frosch said. “There needs to be a coordinated effort to start responding.”

Information source

The Toxic Tides team provided KQED with the map data layers, which show the high-risk aversion scenario for sea level rise as described in the latest state guidelines.

Groundwater data is from the US Geological Survey. The data layer shows 3 meters (9.8 feet), which most closely matches the degree of sea level rise for the high-risk aversion scenario.

Flood risk projections are based on sea level rise, tides and storm surges. Site-specific details of groundwater contamination are not included in these results. The scientists derived hazardous site data from federal databases that track landfills, toxic cleanup sites, refineries, sewage treatment plants and other sites.

Databases include the US EPA’s Facilities Registration Service, the US Energy Information Administration’s US Energy Atlas, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center, and the Enverus Database oil and gas well permits. The authors state that “a lack of groundwater data coupled with imprecise facility boundary estimates may lead to a potential underestimation of the number of facilities at risk.”

The results do not include an exhaustive list of all potentially contaminated sites, such as underground storage tanks or other contaminated industrial sites. Find more information at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission’s Bay Shoreline Flood Explorer or at the San Francisco Baykeeper Sea Level Rise and Pollution Risk to the Bay website.