Potential Environmental Concerns

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West Virginia -- A small town in Wyoming County recovers after a flood. Photo courtesy of FEMA

In any disaster, there are some common potential concerns, and some that will be specific to the region or disaster type. In Region III, some of the most common issues we see are historic site recovery or acquisition, and debris removal concerns such as collecting/storing hazardous materials, capacity of landfills, placement of transfer sites, and floodplain coordination. The following list is not all-inclusive, but should be helpful in anticipating major areas of concern or controversy.

Biological Resources

(** The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection websites are excellent resources for ecosystems and habitats in general. www.dcr.state.va.us; http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/)

  • Plant and animal habitats
  • Wilderness areas
  • Essential Fish Habitats: Delaware Bay (DE and PA), Delaware Inland Bays (DE), Chesapeake Bay – Mainstream (MD and VA), Chester River (MD), Chincotegue (MD and VA), Choptank River (MD), Patuxent River (MD), Potomac River (MD), Tangier/Pocomoke Sound (MD), James River (VA), Rappahannock River (VA), and York River (VA).
  • Specially designed natural areas (natural heritage areas)
  • Unique ecosystems
    • Caves systems in Virginia.
    • Estuaries: Delaware Estuary (DE and PA), Delaware Inland Bays, Maryland Coastal Bays
    • Coastal zones in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
  • Threatened and endangered species
  • T&E's along the beach (Ploving Plover-nesting on beaches) to Indiana Bat (in attic of homes to be demolished in West Virginia).

Climate and Air Quality

  • Air Quality

Geology/Soils

  • Slope stability
  • Karstlands and sinkholes
  • Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Unique Land features

Hazardous Materials

  • Acquisition of sites with hazardous materials present is a common issue.
  • Underground storage tanks
  • Previous commercial uses
    • Sites of old gas stations, etc.
  • Hazardous building materials
    • Particularly in older sections of towns.
  • Hazardous waste sites
    • And debris storage in general may be a problem in mountainous areas, where the only flat lands are generally in flood plains or on a hillside above a water source.
    • An old garage where oil, etc., has been stored/spilled may be an issue in clean-up or buyout situations. The location of FEMA Temporary Group Housing sites must be reviewed for previous use in order to assure that we are not placing disaster victims in a harmful situation.

Historic Preservation

  • Historic Structures
    • A very common issue in Region III with all the battlegrounds and colonial sites. These can be anything from places where Washington slept to paths armies followed to Military cemeteries.
    • Many houses and bridges in rural areas or small, isolated communities are simply old and need to be investigated.
    • Underwater historic sites are regulated as well.
  • Archaeological Resources
    • Includes many sites of old Indian and colonial communities.
    • Acquisition of sites with potential archaeology present is common in Region III. Avoidance of archaeology in the demolition process is very important!
  • Tribal Issues
    • Projects where tribal ownership is an issue are not common in Region III, however it needs to be considered whenever tribal lands are present.

Socio-Economic Issues

  • Low income and minority
    • May become an issue in temporary housing.
  • Elderly/Young populations
  • Noise/odor/vibration
  • Traffic impacts
    • Other related issues may include transportation for displaced clients living in temporary or semi-permanent housing sites.
  • Health and Safety
    • A common issue in some mountainous regions has been sewage following flood disasters. Homes in rural areas may not be connected to modern sewage systems.
  • Consistency with land uses
  • Employment/economic base
    • Some people do not want to move into temporary or semi-permanent housing areas if sites are not conveniently located near their community or place of employment.
  • Visual impacts
    • When placing housing sites, one should consider the visual impact on the landscape and any historic communities near the area.

Water Resources

  • Stream flow/channel alteration
    • Some of the flash-floods, such as in West Virginia, have done so much damage (scouring) already that new bridges/culvert may need to be replaced in a slightly different footprint.
  • Groundwater
    • Karstlands
  • Floodway alterations
  • Wild and scenic / American heritage Rivers
    • Wild and Scenic: White Clay Creek (DE and PA), the Allegheny River (PA), Clarion River (PA), Delaware River (Upper, Middle, and Lower) (PA), and the Bluestone River (WV).
    • American Heritage: the Potomac (DC, MD, PA, VA and WV), the Upper Susquehanna-Lackawanna Watershed (PA), and the New River (VA and WV).
  • Wetlands and floodplain
Last Updated: 
06/15/2012 - 10:00
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