Hurricane Irene Clean-Up Could Devastate Rivers, Forests


While most of the Hurricane Irene coverage focused on damage to homes and businesses, it’s what the storm did to rivers, forests and wetlands that could be the most costly consequence.

During the storm, winds of up to 120 mph ripped through some of the East Coast’s most pristine areas, causing rives to overflow their banks, triggering hundreds of oil, chemical and sewage spills and washing human waste into protected forest and wetland areas.

In order to expedite clean-up of the storm’s damage in these areas, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo advised the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to suspend many of the environmental rules that normally prevent construction and maintenance projects to proceed without a permit. FEMA historically has required entities to obtain a state permit when performing emergency work to ensure that the work is done in an environmentally sound manner.

It is this clean-up free-for-all that has some conservation organizations worried.

“I can understand needing to do triage and put the roads back quickly so we can bring commerce back in,” said Carol Treadwell a researcher with the Ausable River Association. ”But I think we’ve gone a little further than that, and it’s turned into the Wild, Wild West.”

Because Irene was strong enough to send propane tanks, buses, cars and other machinery floating downstream, bulldozers and backhoes have been called into formerly-protected areas to speed clean-up. But environmental advocates like Treadwell say use of this machinery causes irreparable damage to riverbanks, putting crucial trout habitat at risk.

NPR reports that environmental rules in areas affected by Irene and by Tropical Storm Lee won’t go back into effect until the end of this month.


Related Reading:

Hurricane Irene: $35 Billion In Damages?

Hurricane Irene Survivors Could Find Shelter In LifeCube

Missouri River Flooding Threatens Nuclear Power Plant


Image Credit: Flickr - US Fish and Wildlife Service NE Region


Mark Donners
Mark Donner6 years ago

ideally most of humanity should be sterilized. I'm sorry but humanity was never given the right to breed like viruses until the planet is destroyed.

Geraldine H.
Gerri Hennessy6 years ago

Mama nature fights back eh??

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago its close to NJ

Lilithe Magdalene

Wish we'd get on to environmentally safe energy sources, better ways to compost our waste and a mass transportation system so that we can be done with these sources that at the best of times are polluting, and at the worst of times environmentally destructive.

Julia W.
Julia W6 years ago

I live in Upstate New York and was hit with BOTH Hurricane Irene & T.S. Lee. I live on a normally babbling brook that became a torrent. The river's shape changed and flowed right through my basement twice, taking with it my fuel tank, spilling the fuel. NYS Department of Environmental Conservation said the mix of fuel oil, mud and silt was dangerous, toxic and that they would clean it up. (They didn't-- my friends and neighbors did.) Three weeks after the first flood I've STILL got junk from my basement that doesn't belong in regular dumpsters on my lawn. They say they're coming to pick it up tomorrow, I hope they actually do this time.
And by the way, I live 150 miles inland, not in a flood plain -- before this-- and two of the neighboring villages are just *gone.*

Katie C.
Katie C6 years ago

Too many humans are soooo short sighted. It's very very sad, a travesty against nature.

The Other Robert O
Robert O6 years ago

Ideally, we should stop building in, and littering the flood plains. Nobody should have to pursue man-made junk down the river. I'm disappointed every time I see a photo of multiple school busses parked in 5' of water... Who was responsible for them? Why were they not moved to higher ground? It really is a shame to see all that petro-toxic stuff getting spread over long distances.

We should stop using taxpayer monies to rebuild in coastal storm zones as well. No smart person would thumb their nose at nature like that, knowing they would bear the loss alone.

"Sometimes you're the windshield - sometimes you're the bug..."

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

NJ got pretty bitch smacked. it washed the crummy road that goes to our community away. there is an unoffical road we used to go in and out.

so yeh. "No damage"? a lot can change in a few years. just because "OH it never did this" back then, won't mean it will always be that way.

Nabeel M.
Nabeel M.6 years ago


Duane B.
.6 years ago

It doesn't seem that a single individual should have the authority to suspend rules of this type. It seems that this should require multiple individuals in agreement to do.