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Climate and Environment

Sea Level Rise Puts Over 400 Toxic Sites At Risk Of Flooding

The Conoco-Phillips refinery in Wilmington is seen against an almost dark sky.  Several columns and towers make up the refinery with one emitting a dark plume of smoke on the right hand side of the photo.
The Conoco-Phillips oil refinery in Wilmington.
(Sundogg
/
via LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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A new study from UCLA and UC Berkeley says that by the year 2100, hundreds of hazardous chemical sites on the California coast will be regularly flooded by a rise in sea level.

The study forecasts the worst impact will hit communities of color that are already facing health risks from industrial waste.

UCLA's Lara Cushing says among the places that might be hardest hit in SoCal are Long Beach and Wilmington.

"It's a community that disproportionately hosts a large number of environmental hazards, things like oil and gas wells … the Port of Long Beach and all the trucking that goes on through the neighborhood," Cushing said.

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Wilmington is home to half of LA's active oil production, and researchers found that residents routinely report dizziness, shortness of breath, nosebleeds and headaches. People of color comprise 99% of Wilmington's population.

The project mapped hazardous sites along the California coast and overlaid socio-economic data that shows how disadvantaged communities are five times more likely to live less than one mile from facilities at risk of flooding.

Cushing also said the study factored in language barriers and voter turnout when considering how badly these areas might be affected.

"To prevent future flood risks, there's a real need to have political engagement and resources directed to environmental justice communities on the fence lines of these industries," said Cushing.

Without dramatic action on climate change, it's estimated that some 145,000 residents and more than 400 "hazardous sites" throughout the state could see flooding by the end of the century due to sea level rise.

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