Science Inventory

Assessing community vulnerability to extreme events in the presence of contaminated sites and waste management facilities: An indicator approach


Sinha, P., S. Julius, M. Fry, R. Truesdale, J. Cajka, M. Eddy, P. Doraiswamya, AND D. Womacka. Assessing community vulnerability to extreme events in the presence of contaminated sites and waste management facilities: An indicator approach. Urban Climate. Elsevier Science, New York, NY, 53(101800):1-30, (2024).


Worsening extreme events (e.g., excessive heat, droughts, floods, and wildfires) can impact communities near contaminated sites and waste management facilities through potential contaminant releases. Spatial and temporal information can help identify communities that may be most vulnerable to such events. This study offers a transparent, easily implementable approach that can be applied anywhere to screen for community vulnerabilities. This study furthers current knowledge in the field of urban vulnerability assessment by considering four sources of vulnerabilities (changing climates, contaminated sites, fate and transport, and population sensitivities) in one holistic framework and at a common scale. The results presented in this paper illustrate the importance of looking at indicators in conjunction with each other rather than considering each in isolation. The indicators distinguish the sources of vulnerability which can help prioritize local plans and decisions such as cleanup, response, and redevelopment. Both the conceptual framework and indicators can be adapted and applied to inform decision-making where sites/waste facilities are near dense, and often disadvantaged, populations with extreme event concerns.


Communities across the United States are enduring, often unexpectedly, the effects of extreme events, such as excessive heat, prolonged droughts, extreme floods, and wildfires. In places where contaminated sites and waste management facilities are also present, communities must consider the risks and impacts of potential releases from these sites due to such events. Impacts of extreme events on sites and consequently on surrounding communities result from complex interactions between natural, physical, and social factors. A conceptual framework was developed to identify and provide a shared understanding of key vulnerabilities and pathways that transcend disciplines. Indicators and maps were developed to represent these key vulnerabilities and pathways including contaminated sites, and waste facilities;, contaminant transport via air, and water, and a range of population sensitivities. This transparent and replicable screening method is based on publicly available data and can be used to identify the most vulnerable U.S. Census Block Groups. The method was developed in close collaboration with city, state and region partners on case studies in Maricopa County, Arizona and the City of Waterbury, Connecticut. Regional, state, and local decision makers can use such assessment results to develop and prioritize targeted mitigation, adaptation, and response strategies to prevent adverse health and environmental impacts of disaster-induced contaminant releases.

Record Details:

Product Published Date:01/22/2024
Record Last Revised:01/25/2024
OMB Category:Other
Record ID: 360264