Extreme Tornadoes Digging Up Ground Where Superfund Sites Are

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 17, 2021, by Noreen Wise, Founder & CEO of Gallant Gold Media, and author 

The severe chain of tornadoes that ravaged eight states on December 10, 2021, touching down in 30 separate locations, opened our eyes to the new normal that we’ve thrust ourselves into after breaking through the boundaries that human civilization has existed in for more than 10,000 years. 

We’ve left the Holocene Epoch, the era of stable climate and predictable seasons with a global temperature of +/- 1ºC, and entered the unstable Anthropocene Epoch, the age of humans. Nothing is predictable anymore. We’re currently at a global temperature of 1.2ºC above the pre-industrial age baseline. Climate scientists have warned that we’ll experience many more extreme weather events and thus have to find more ways to adapt as quickly as possible, while simultaneously reducing carbon emissions, just as urgently, in the hopes that we can make our way back to the safe Holocene conditions.  

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However hopeful we may be about the future and our ability to turn this around, the current conditions are baked in for the next 20 years. Understanding the new extremes and creating strategies for adapting, (ie deep underground tornado shelter bunkers), will keep people much more safe, although our personal property will still be at great risk from here on out, as we saw with the total destruction of Mayfield, Kentucky

The heart of the matter.

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL),  under Severe Storms 101, powerful tornadoes have the ability to shred the ground itself, spew dirt, and in some cases dig trenches as deep as 3 feet. There have even been reports of tornadoes pulling up asphalt.

A powerful tornado’s ability to dig into the ground, should set off alarm bells. Graveyards are a concern of course, although right now, most caskets are 6 feet deep so they’re still relatively secure. But for how long? How deep will a tornado be able to dig if we reach 1.5ºC, or worse 2ºC?

And how about Superfund sites? The remedial procedure for decontaminating soil tainted by toxic waste is to cap it off, usually with clean soil, the depth of which is determined by the EPA and varies. 

For example, General Tire & Rubber Co (Mayfield Landfill ) is located two miles north of Mayfield, Kentucky and was deemed a superfund site in 1990 at which time it was placed on the National Priorities List (NPL). The EPA removed General Tire & Rubber Co (Mayfield Landfill ) from the NPL when it determined that no cleaned would be necessary after all following the PRP (potentially responsible party) covering the trenches (that contained 152 tons of hazardous waste) with two feet of clean soil, and seeding the top.

Not cleaning up the contaminated area and instead just covering it up, may have benefitted the PRP and the EPA in the short term, but it has become a significant threat in the long term. The hazardous waste at General Tire & Rubber Co (Mayfield Landfill ) is still there, two feet below the surface based on EPA records. The tornadoes will become more powerful due to climate change, more stronger than the 163-190 mph winds that tore up Mayfield on December 10, 2021. Stronger tornadoes have the potential to dig into the trenches where the hazardous waste still remains and propel it into the air where it can swirl around and potentially spread hundreds of miles. 

In 2021, there were 1,317 Superfund sites in the US. Kentucky has its fair share, a dynamic list that the EPA is trying to whittle down to zero. It appears that at one point there were 21 Superfund sites in Kentucky. Eight are still showing as active on the current list, although at least one of these was removed from the NPL in September 2021.

The tornado that raged through Kentucky on December 10, 2021, passed over 3 Superfund sites in two counties. 

  • Logan County (EF2, 111-135 mph winds)
  • Marshall County (EF4, 166-200 mph winds)

According to WLKY “assessments show the tornado was on the ground over the entirety of Marshall county.” Marshall County is home to two Kentucky Superfund sites.

The Airco Superfund site had been an industrial landfill and is located in close proximity to the BF Goodrich Superfund site. The EPA determined that Airco toxic waste would not harm local residents because it is fenced, secured and capped. Based on this low safety standard, the public needs to demand that the EPA investigate how well the Airco Superfund site withstood the force of an E4 tornado raging across every inch of ground in Marshall County on December 10, 2021.

The EPA asserted that the BF Goodrich Superfund site posed a significant public health risk to before the tornado. In light of the fact that the December 10 tornado was “on the ground over the entirety of Marshall County,” an investigation should be conducted as quickly as possible to determine how the public is affected:

Contaminated soil and groundwater underlying the Site pose a potential for the occurrence of contaminated vapors in the vadose zone and intrusion of vapors to indoor air spaces. An investigation of indoor air in buildings occupied by administrative workers not regulated under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) indicated elevated levels of VOCs. The maximum indoor air risk estimated was 5 × 10-4 for cancer risks and a hazard index (HI) of 20 for non-cancer risk. However, a comparison of the outdoor air and sub-slab data indicates an outdoor air source for the VOCs. The elevated levels of VOCs encountered in the outdoor air may be attributable to point and non-point emissions from plant operations.” —DOJ (Remedial Action Work Plan for the B.F. Goodrich Superfund Site, Calvert City, Marshall County, Kentucky)

Again, it’s imperative that local officials who are working with FEMA connect with the EPA about investigating all the Superfund sites the tornadoes passed over in all eight states. There were three in Kentucky alone. Several more are relatively close to Edwardsville, IL where the Amazon warehouse caved in. With more than 1300 Superfund sites in the US, climate change extreme weather events striking the same location as a Superfund site and spreading the toxins far and wide, is highly likely and poses a significant danger to the public. Some of these are nuclear contaminants. Communities must be made aware of the best health protocols to implement and follow when extreme storms collide with highly toxic waste.

Gallant Gold Media will following this and will keep the public updated.

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Future Black Swan Weather Events | IE Manhattan Project Toxins

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 8, 2021 by author and climate journalist Noreen Wise

In the midst of this summer’s deadly heatwaves, melting icecaps and ferocious wildfires, a rain bomb exploded over a five-county area in rural western Middle Tennessee, traumatizing multiple communities, most notably the small, friendly town of Waverly.

It was in the early morning hours of August 21, 2021, a Saturday thankfully, approximately ten miles further up the mountain from Waverly, in McEwen, Tennessee, that 17 inches of rain dropped from the sky, (nearly triple the amount of rain that pounded communities in New Jersey and New York when Ida’s remnants slammed the tri-state area on September 1, 2021, killing 40). The torrents of Tennessee rain quickly gushed into Trace Creek which soon grew into a massive thrust of water that raged down the mountainside and pummeled Waverly much like a tidal wave crashing ashore. The unexpected catastrophic flooding overwhelmed the small community of 4,000.

There was widespread and extensive infrastructure failure. 

  • 20 people were killed.
  • 1209 homes were flooded, with several hundred completely destroyed.
  • More than 125 homes were “twisted” off their foundations and just “gone.”
  • Humphreys County 911 center became inoperable.
  • Cell service was disrupted.
  • County water system went down.
  • Numerous main roads in multiple towns were impassable and some were completely washed away.
  • 10 bridges were closed for days, with one requiring extensive repair and is still closed.

The summer devastation in western Middle Tennessee, with rushing water so forceful that two 7-month-old twins, Ryan and Rileigh, were ripped from their father’s arms and swept away, should be at the forefront of our minds as we come to grips with our new reality. 

A clear understanding of the threats we face at 1.2ºC above the pre-industrial global temperature will be our best defense. 

Prior to this tragedy, millions of Americans likely felt somewhat safe in the heartland, as well as up the East Coast in non-coastal communities. But now, post Tennessee trauma, as we assess our personal and family exposure to the risks of extreme weather events, the western Middle Tennessee flood makes it clear that there are no safe havens or hideaways. Therefore, we all must act quickly to make different choices so we can stay below 1.5ºC. Every degree higher than 1.5ºC will generate weather extremes that are exponentially more perilous. 

This week in Italy, a staggering 29 inches of rain spilled from the sky in a brief 12 hours, causing floods and landslides. Sovano, Italy is 59 miles from the coast and local official couldn’t anticipate such extreme weather impacting their community without warning.

With this in mind, it’s imperative that we begin to plan for black swan weather events like these, as well as the “what ifs.” What if torrential rains of 17 inches or 29 inches gushed from the sky onto some our 1344 superfund sites. These hidden environmental hazards quickly become mixed into the swirling, raging flood waters that surround us during extreme downpours. Take for example the Oak Ridge Reservation Superfund Site in Oak Ridge Tennessee, just 227 miles down the road from Waverly. Can you imagine the nightmare that could have struck on August 21, 2021 if the rain bomb had held out a few more miles and exploded over Oak Ridge, Tennessee instead? 

Oak Ridge, Tennessee is considered the energy capital of the world, the location of a large federal research facility, partly devoted to the research and testing of clean energy solutions to replace fossil fuels. Oak Ridge is quite historic, however, and wasn’t always clean. In fact, it used to be extremely toxic, and 35,000 acres of the campus were placed on the superfund site list in 1989.

Large sections of the landscape are labeled as “Highly Restricted,” which makes sense. Back in the 1940’s, Oak Ridge Reservation was:

  • Headquarters of the Manhattan Project beginning in 1942 after the “top-secret atomic weapons program” was moved out of Manhattan, New York to Tennessee.
  • Years were spent enriching uranium for the world’s first atomic bomb.
  • According to the EPA, over the past 79 years, toxic waste has runoff and contaminated “82 river miles of the Clinch River and the Clinch River arm of the Watts Bar Reservoir.”
  • Oak Ridge Reservation is one of the largest superfund site in the United States, clean up won’t be completed until 2028, 7 more years.

Imagine a raging 82 miles of the potentially radioactive Clinch River gushing towards homes downstream, following an intense 17 inch or 29 inch rain bomb. It’s almost too terrifying to process. But the possibility of this actually happening is about 50 percent likely, which does inspire immediate action.

CALL TO ACTION. We must contact our local, state and federal representatives regularly to let them know how vitally important it is that laws are passed to protect us from environmental hazards in the age of climate change. 

Oak Ridge Reservation was listed as a superfund site 32 years ago. It doesn’t seem like Oak Ridge Reservation was ever a priority. How unfortunate. The situation has now morphed into a Code Red for Humanity threat. We have to start planning ahead and do whatever we can to curb the threat. 

No rose without thorns. —French Proverb.
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