Reports indicate that flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey spilled at least 31 million gallons of raw sewage in Texas, but likely spilled far more.1 That’s the equivalent of every person in Houston flushing a toilet seven times.* This pollution threatens human health.
The floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey have receded, but the work to clean up in the storm’s aftermath has just begun. One thing left in Harvey’s wake is a tremendous amount of debris -- people’s belongings and furniture, parts of buildings, trees, and boats destroyed during the hurricane
Rain is one of Texas’s greatest resources, but it also causes some of our most serious problems. Too much produces flooding and erosion, too little produces droughts and aquifer depletion, and dirty runoff produces water pollution. These problems are becoming worse as more of the state’s land is covered with buildings and roads that prevent rain from soaking into the ground where it falls. That’s why more Texans are using building and landscaping features that can retain and reuse stormwater onsite. These features include rain gardens, green roofs, permeable pavement, and rain cisterns, and are known as Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) and Low Impact Development (LID).
A review of five years of state records by the Environmental Integrity Project and Environment Texas shows that the state imposed penalties on less than 3 percent of the illegal pollution releases (588 out of 24,839) reported by companies during maintenance or malfunctions from 2011 through 2016, even though the incidents released more than 500 million pounds of air pollution.
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.