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As documented in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, community activists and researchers have been concerned about the potential for fugitive chemicals to be released into floodwaters for some time.10,11,12 In NYC, small community organizations are leading efforts to publicize and communicate the dangers of fugitive chemicals and spearheading campaigns to create policy change.


Jaime Madrigano, Juan Camilo Osorio, Eddie Bautista, Ryan Chavez, Christine F. Chaisson, Erika Meza, Regina A. Shih, and Ramya Chari


The combination of population growth in areas of mixed (residential, commercial, and industrial) land use along U.S. waterfronts and the increasing frequency of devastating hurricanes and storm surges has led to community fears of widespread toxic chemical contamination resulting from accidental industrial or small business releases, particularly in the aftermath of an extreme weather event, such as a hurricane. Industrial waterfront communities, which are frequently environmental justice communities, contain numerous toxic chemical sources located in close proximity to residential housing, schools, daycare centers, playgrounds, and healthcare centers. Despite the longstanding concerns of community activists and researchers about the potential for “fugitive” chemicals to be released into floodwaters, there has been little coordinated research or action to develop environmental monitoring programs for disaster-affected communities. In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a community-academic partnership was formed between the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, UPROSE, The LifeLine Group, and the RAND Corporation. The collaboration, known as Grassroots Research to Action in Sunset Park (GRASP) has focused on identifying possible sources of chemical contamination, modeling the potential for chemical release into community areas and resulting exposure risks, and proactively developing actions for mitigating or preventing adverse community impacts. Through our ongoing work, we have identified barriers and drivers for community-based environmental monitoring, and in doing so, we have developed a framework to overcome challenges. In this article, we describe this framework, which can be used by waterfront communities bracing to deal with the effects of future devastating weather disasters.


Dr. Madrigano is an associate policy researcher at RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia. Mr. Osorio an adjunct assistant professor at Graduate Center for Planning and the Environment at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York and at Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Bautista is executive director at The New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, Brooklyn, New York. Mr. Chavez is the infrastructure coordinator at UPROSE, Brooklyn, New York. Dr. Chaisson is director at The LifeLine Group, Annandale, Virginia. Ms. Meza is a policy analyst at RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia. Dr. Shih is a senior behavioral scientist at RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia. Dr. Chari is a full policy researcher at RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia.

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