While the primary focus of the Hazard Mitigation Plan revolves around the identification of natural hazards, it’s important to acknowledge non-natural hazards as well.
Non-natural hazards stem from deliberate and purposeful human actions. These encompass immediate incidents like shootings, bombings, cyber-attacks, and hazardous material releases, as well as gradual occurrences like mass migrations, deteriorating infrastructure, and homelessness.
This non-natural hazard profile will offer brief and condensed insights drawn from the 2019 Hazard Mitigation Plan, accompanied by links to comprehensive reports and resources for further exploration. It’s important to note that the depth of detail provided for non-natural hazards will differ from that of natural hazards due to the distinct scope and character of the Hazard Mitigation Plan.
The Internet has improved communication, innovation, and access to information. Still, it’s largely open and unregulated nature means New York City and other municipal governments are more vulnerable to the hazards associated with cybersecurity threats and incidents.
As cybercriminals become more sophisticated in the future, New York City’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks may change significantly. Looking ahead, New York City government and organizations are using increasingly innovative security measures to protect systems and citizens.
What is the Hazard?
In today’s digital age, New York City faces an evolving spectrum of cyber threats that disrupt essential services and compromise sensitive data. At their core, these threats challenge a system’s ability to safeguard user data (confidentiality), guarantee data accuracy (integrity), and ensure uninterrupted services (availability). The variety of cyberattacks ranges from financially-motivated cybercrimes to hacktivism, which is ideologically-driven unauthorized system access, and cyber espionage, the digital theft of confidential information. New York City, with its vast digital infrastructure, has often found itself a target, especially in the realm of hacktivism.
Cyber threats originate from various actors, both internal and external to organizations. According to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigation Report, external actors remain the predominant threat source.i However, the unpredictability of human behavior and the speed at which technology advances make it hard to quantify the exact likelihood of cyber incidents. The repercussions of cyberattacks can be transient, with most incidents causing short-lived disruptions. Yet, significant attacks can have prolonged, cascading impacts on the city’s infrastructure and systems.
To gauge the severity of these incidents, New York City adheres to the Department of Homeland Security’s NCCIC Cyber Incident Scoring System. This system, accessible via the US-CERT website, categorizes cyber incidents based on risk levels, from the highest ‘Emergency’ category to the least severe ‘Baseline – Negligible’. Unlike traditional hazards, cyber threats don’t have geographical constraints. Their global nature, facilitated by the internet, means that attacks can originate anywhere, making cybersecurity a pressing, borderless challenge for New York City.ii
What is the Risk?
As New York City becomes increasingly intertwined with technology, its vulnerability to cyber threats grows, presenting unique challenges. A significant number of Americans fear data breaches, with both tangible disruptions to sectors like transportation and healthcare and intangible societal impacts, like mistrust, surfacing post-incidents. The incorporation of advanced technologies in infrastructures like smart buildings adds another layer of potential risks. While the natural environment isn’t an immediate target for cyber threats, indirect consequences like hazardous spills can’t be discounted. Opportunistic criminals might also leverage natural disasters to target already vulnerable systems, intensifying damages. As we advance, a shift in cybersecurity strategy—from mere defense to continuous adaptation—is paramount. The City must prioritize proactive security measures, especially as cyber threats evolve faster than protective measures.
How to Manage the Risk
In response to escalating cyber threats, New York City has ramped up its cyber defense strategies. The City established the New York City Cyber Command (NYC3) in 2017, a centralized entity responsible for the City’s cyber defense across its numerous agencies. NYC3 mirrors the role of other key City departments like the New York City Police Department (NYPD) or the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), ensuring the protection of the City’s infrastructure from cyber threats.iii They employ cutting-edge technologies, engage in public-private collaborations, and regularly train City staff. Significantly, in 2022, a collaborative Joint Security Operations Center was unveiled by key City leaders, further fortifying the City’s cybersecurity stance.iv
Understanding the importance of awareness, NYC has prioritized cyber education. With mobile platforms accounting for over 60% of online fraud, the City has expanded initiatives to raise awareness about cybersecurity risks. NYC3’s Citywide Cybersecurity Awareness Program equips City employees with comprehensive training, from classroom sessions to anti-phishing simulations. These efforts extend to the broader public, promoting best practices to counteract cyber threats and using test phishing campaigns to gauge and elevate the public’s awareness.v
On the prevention and detection front, NYC offers resources like the NYC Secure app, launched in 2018, which alerts users about potential threats on their mobile devices. To further bolster the City’s cybersecurity sector, the City rolled out the Cyber NYC initiative, encompassing a global cyber center, an innovation hub, research drives, and training programs for future cybersecurity professionals. Furthermore, the NYCx Cybersecurity Moonshot Challenge equips residents and small businesses with essential tools and information to guard against cyber threats.
Protection remains a crucial pillar of NYC’s strategy. As the reliance on smartphones and mobile devices grows, so does vulnerability, particularly on unsecure Wi-Fi networks. NYC3 emphasizes the significance of using encrypted Wi-Fi connections and has spearheaded the deployment of Domain Name System (DNS) protection across City-owned systems, urging other Wi-Fi providers to adopt similar protective measures. The City’s collective efforts underscore a proactive, multi-faceted approach to cybersecurity, aiming to safeguard its digital realms and its inhabitants.
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, or Nuclear (CBRN)
A hazardous materials incident occurs when harmful substances or pathogens are released into the environment. These releases are typically categorized as chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) incidents, depending on the characteristics of the released material(s).
Such releases may be either accidental or intentional. Accidental incidents can arise from human error, technological failures, or as an indirect consequence of natural disasters. Intentional releases involve criminal acts, such as purposeful dumping by industries to evade regulatory requirements or acts of terrorism targeting specific locations or populations. Examples include deliberate contamination of food or the use of dispersal devices for hazardous materials, either alone or in combination with explosives.
In the case of an improvised nuclear device, the potential or actual detonation of the weapon can be attributed to an intentional act of terrorism or warfare. Whether accidental or intentional, the impacts of a CBRN event on New York City can be significant.
What is the Hazard?
New York City is exposed to a spectrum of threats stemming from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) incidents, each with the potential to impact health and the environment. Addressing these hazards presents distinct challenges related to containment, treatment, and mitigation.
These encompass any toxic chemicals manufactured, used, transported, or stored, capable of causing death or harm through exposure. This category includes chemical weapon agents and substances developed or manufactured for industrial or research purposes that pose a hazard.
These involve organisms or substances derived from organisms that pose a threat to the health of living organisms. Examples range from medical waste to microorganisms, viruses, or toxins that can impact human health and spread infectious diseases. Biological materials used in industrial, medical, or commercial processes may present infectious or toxic threats.
This category pertains to damage, injury, or illness resulting from the ionizing effects of radiation. Radiological materials are present in various public and private sites, including nuclear power plants, hospitals, universities, construction sites, and food irradiation plants. These materials serve industrial, commercial, and medical purposes and are routinely transported for such uses.
Associated with the detonation of a nuclear weapon, these hazards include prompt radiation, overpressure, thermal effects, electromagnetic pulse (EMP), and radioactive fallout, which accompanies most nuclear detonations above 10 kilotons (kT).
What is the Risk?
Natural Environment: Chemical releases can contaminate soil and underground water systems and eventually discharge into nearby bodies of water, including the Hudson River, East River, Long Island Sound, Harlem River, Jamaica Bay, New York Harbor, Gowanus Canal, and Newtown Creek. Soil contamination from these chemical releases can extend to agricultural areas, potentially affecting food production and quality.
Certain chemicals may be toxic to many species of plants, animals, and invertebrates. Uncontained spills, especially those that impact surface water, can kill or injure plants, fish, and wildlife and cause damage to their habitat and food sources. After a hazardous chemical release, the remediation of the natural environment poses unique challenges and is often lengthy and costly.
Social Environment: New York City faces heightened risks related to hazardous materials due to its dense population. Proximity to storage sites and front-line emergency responders increases exposure risks, especially in waterfront areas like the South Bronx, Red Hook, and Newtown Creek, where asthma rates are high. These vulnerable communities, often low-income and minority, grapple with intertwined challenges during coastal storms that threaten stored hazardous substances.
The psychological impact of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) incidents is significant, leading to increased anxiety, depression, and PTSD among both directly and indirectly exposed individuals. Addressing these vulnerabilities requires a comprehensive approach considering social, economic, and environmental factors in emergency response and disaster preparedness.
Built Environment: Chemical releases pose a significant threat to buildings and property, causing damage to materials, infrastructure, and widespread contamination. The cleanup process can be excessively expensive or result in sites becoming entirely unusable. Accumulated vapors from spills in residential and business areas may lead to health problems, fires, and explosions. Transportation infrastructure shutdowns can disrupt supply chains and chemical dispersion may contaminate porous surfaces in living and working spaces.
Future Environment: The City’s shift toward alternative energy sources, alongside a rise in local drug manufacturing using various chemicals, introduces new risks.
The increased use of lithium-ion batteries in vehicles, e-bikes, and machinery brings new issues related to chemical fires and hazardous waste. Over the past several years, the City has seen record numbers lethal of lithium-ion battery fires, and continue to search for new solutions to safely store and remove this hazardous waste.
The risks associated with chemical substances extend to commonly found household and professional-grade toxic chemicals, which can be manufactured, stolen, or acquired for malicious purposes, including the creation of nerve agents, blister agents, blood agents, choking agents, and irritants. The proliferation of chemical weapon recipes online further empowers individuals with potentially dangerous knowledge for misuse.
State-sponsored acts, like the 2018 Novichok incident in England, combined with local threats, underscore the escalating chemical risks facing New York City.vi
Natural Environment: Biological events have the potential to severely impact plant and animal life The nature and severity of these effects are dependent on the specific type of biological entity released, with some having the capacity to exert vast consequences similar to a major chemical release. In such scenarios, the balance of the city’s natural ecosystems could be disrupted, potentially leading to longer-term environmental repercussions.
Social Environment: As seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City’s densely populated environment may lead to quicker human-to-human contact, which can exacerbate the spread of a pathogen. Certain demographics of the population, such as the elderly, young children, those with limited mobility, and individuals with prior health conditions or compromised immune systems, are disproportionately at risk when exposed to these hazards.
Built Environment: The City’s built infrastructure may face consequences due to the impacts of biological hazards. In the case of a significant biological incident, the City may experience mass transit disruptions, building closures, and basic service suspensions. Buildings may need modifications, such as enhanced ventilation systems, or some buildings may be contaminated and require decontamination or closure. Disruptions like these may impact the economy and the City’s built landscape.
Future Environment: Anticipated shifts in the demographic distribution and density of New York City could reshape the scale of risks linked to biological hazards. Progress in medical technology, while focused on improving health, may introduce unforeseen challenges.
Natural Environment: Relatively high radiation exposure can result in detrimental health effects. Significant radiation doses may increase the probability of cancer or if delivered rapidly at a high dose, severe sickness or death from acute radiation syndrome. Internal exposure, resulting from radioactivity entering water and food, can elevate cancer risk significantly.
Radioactivity in soil and water can persist for years, depending on the half-life of the involved radioactivity (e.g., Cesium-137 with a half-life of 30 years), may -infiltrate soils and be taken up by plants. .vii
Social Environment: Radiological hazards can significantly affect those near a contamination event, like a dirty bomb explosion, resulting in high radiation doses. The effects can encompass potential aerosolization and subsequent inhalation of radioactive materials. Once internalized, these materials may affect internal organs. Additionally, a major radiological incident may spread a radioactive plumes for miles, affecting those further away from the center of an event.
Particular groups face heightened sensitivity: children, due to their smaller organs, can experience more significant radiation doses.
Built Environment: Radiological dispersal devices (RDDs), or “dirty bombs”, primarily threaten NYC’s built environment through explosive impacts and contamination spread. Structures ranging from subways, streets and sidewalks to hydrants and traffic lights situated within the contamination zones would necessitate intensive decontamination or even complete dismantling and removal of infrastructure if cleaning proves infeasible.
Future Environment: The future’s radiological risk landscape depends on the evolution of radioactive material usage in fields like research, medicine, industry, and power generation . While the use of radioactive substances in specific research areas has dwindled nationally, some NYC hospitals continue to employ radioactivity and Cesium-137 based irradiators. Although purchased in small quantities and often employing shorter half-live materials, there is daily transport of these materials on city streets. Periodically, low level radioactive waste generated from these activities is also transported through the city. The continuous surveillance via the Secure the Cities (STC) program, aimed at intercepting illicit radioactive materials, remains crucial in preemptively reducing radiological risks in the city’s future landscape. The citywide emergency response to an RDD is outlined in the Radiological Response and Recovery Plan.
Natural Environment: The detonation of a nuclear device would lead to widespread destruction and could spread radioactive materials through fallout for tens or perhaps hundreds of miles. The fallout radiation fields may be significant in certain areas, impacting the landscape and health of the population.
Social Environment: Any detonation of a improvised nuclear device of about 10 kT yield could harm anyone residing, working, or visiting New York City within at least a 3 mile radius from ground zero.viii The cascading effects of infrastructure damage, loss or power, severing of supply chains and loss of life will inflict devastating economic and psychological effects nationwide as well as give rise to varying medical challenges. A mass exodus out of the city could press the resources of the nation to support, shelter and feed those who depart.
Built Environment: An explosion from a nuclear weapon stands to be the most devastating of all CBRN hazards for NYC. The extent of destruction will be dictated by the weapon’s strength and fallout pattern, severely impacting the city’s infrastructure, including its transit systems and power grids. Recovery from such an event would be an immense national challenge.
Future Environment: Global geopolitical tensions involving nuclear weapons could amplify broader risks. The potential dissolution of agreements like the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty could usher in a new arms race, thereby escalating the danger.ix Nuclear weapon materials could become accessible for terrorist purposes if not strictly monitored, leading to increased risks of nuclear incidents. Keeping track of global terrorist activities is crucial, emphasizing the need for vigilance, cooperation, and preparedness in NYC’s defense strategies. This is managed partly by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the many national intelligence agencies worldwide.
How to Manage the Risk?
Many parties in New York City, at all levels of government and within the private and nonprofit sectors, contribute to safe management of hazardous materials. This section presents examples of their efforts.
Strategies for managing risks posed by chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) releases include extensive regulatory controls on fixed sites and transportation; carrying out pertinent studies and industry safety initiatives, emergency planning, community preparedness, and education efforts that help workers better manage hazardous materials and help communities understand the risks.
Regulation of Fixed Sites
Since the beginning of the environmental movement in the 1960s, many federal laws were created to regulate the storage and use of hazardous materials effectively. These laws are delegated to state and local governments for effective implementation and enforcement. What follows is a list of regulations enacted from all levels of government.
Federal laws and programs that are most important to manage hazardous materials releases are listed below.
The Clean Water Act – In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act, establishing the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into the nation’s waters. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) was created in 1972 by the Clean Water Act, establishing a permit program that limits the discharge of pollutants through a point source into the water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) often delegates to state governments. In New York State, NPDES is implemented by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), which carries out the program’s many permitting, administrative, and enforcement aspects.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act – Enacted in 1976, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act gives the EPA authority to control hazardous waste from beginning to end, including generation, transportation, treatment, storage, and disposal. This federal law is incorporated into New York State regulations and implemented by NYSDEC.
Superfund – The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as Superfund, was passed in 1980 and amended in 1986 to provide for the cleanup of some of the most polluted industrial sites in the United States. CERCLA gave the EPA the authority to hold responsible parties accountable for funding the cost of investigation and remediation of Superfund sites.
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) – In 1986 Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The EPCRA requires industries to report on the storage, use, and releases of hazardous substances to federal, state, and local governments.
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) – The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), administered by the EPA, is a public law that guides the proper management of hazardous and non-hazardous solid waste.
Biological Safety Levels (BSL) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established Biological Safety Levels (BSL) to manage risk of biological materials releases. The levels establish protection controls for the containment of microbes and biological agents in specific labs. The four safety levels are based on infectivity (the ability of a pathogen to establish an infection), severity of disease, transmissibility, and the nature of the work conducted.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – The NRC promulgates regulations that control the use of radioactive materials in industry, academia, and medicine (Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations, various Parts). The NRC regulates and inspects the nuclear power industry under additional parts of the Code.
U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – DOT maintains regulations stipulating the proper packaging, labeling, and transport of radioactive materials, including radioactive waste. More information is provided below under Regulatory Controls on Transportation of Hazardous Materials.
In 1970, NYSDEC was created to regulate and enforce the state environmental conservation laws and to coordinate many state programs to ensure that communities and resources are protected from hazardous materials releases. Important NYSDEC initiatives are listed below.
Toxic Release Inventory – NYSDEC collects Toxic Release Inventory data reported by facilities as required by federal law. NYSDEC requires that storage and disposal facilities maintain environmentally protective design and operational standards.
State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) – SPDES is designed to eliminate the pollution of New York waters by point sources (points of pollution discharge) and by implementing the NPDES provisions of the federal Clean Water Act to maintain the highest possible quality of water.
Petroleum Bulk Storage (PBS) Program – The NYSDEC PBS Program applies to any facility that has a combined petroleum storage capacity in excess of 1,100 gallons, for both above and below ground tanks. In addition, NYSDEC also regulates motor fuel and waste oil in underground tanks that are 100 gallons or larger. Facilities must be registered with the state and managed in compliance with applicable petroleum handling and storage regulations.
Chemical Bulk Storage (CBS) Program – The NYSDEC CBS Program applies to any facility storing a hazardous substance that is listed in 6 NYCRR Part 597 in an above-ground storage tank that is larger than 185 gallons, in an underground storage tank of any size, or in a non-stationary tank used to store 1,000 kg or more of a regulated substance for a period of 90 or more consecutive days. All of these facilities must be registered to store and handle hazardous substances.
Standards for Management of Used Oil – The NYSDEC Standards for Management of Used Oil establish the management and marketing standards and permit requirements for the following: Used oil generators, transporters, and transfer facilities, processors and re-refiners, facilities that burn used oil for energy recovery
State Superfund – NYSDEC’s Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site (IHWDS) Program, or State Superfund, is New York State’s program to identify, investigate, categorize, and clean up sites having consequential amounts of hazardous waste. NYSDEC maintains the Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Sites. Site cleanups are prioritized according to a site’s threat to human health and the environment.
Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) – In New York State, the DOH regulates the use of radioactive material through Radioactive Materials License program. The licensees are required to abide by license requirements that restrict the purchase of radioactive material to stipulated isotopes and total inventory amounts. Use of the materials is also restricted to prevent unnecessary releases to the occupational or public environment. The DEC, on the other hand, restricts the release of radioactive materials to the water and atmospheric environments through a permitting system. This system is supplemented by a reporting and inspection program. The DEC has issued the Division of Materials Management Program Policy 5, which outlines the management of soils contaminated with Technologically-Enhanced Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (TENORM).
New York City regulates hazardous materials through a series of local laws and programs.
Local Law 26 of 1988 – Local Law 26 of 1988, the local Emergency Planning Community Right to Know (RTK) Law, designated New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) as the authority charged with regulating the storage, use, and handling of hazardous materials that are above specified thresholds. DEP collects the information reported from facilities and archives it within the Citywide Facility Inventory Database.
Facilities must submit a risk management plan to DEP when Extremely Hazardous Substances (EHS) or regulated toxic substances are present at or above federally determined levels.
Inspections – DEP inspects facilities to determine if they comply with chemical inventory reporting, storage, and labeling requirements. Facilities that are not in compliance receive notices of violation and are required to take corrective action. In 2018, DEP conducted 10,126 facility inspections and issued 861 Notices of Violation to facilities for non-compliance with reporting requirements.x
Local Law 143 – Local Law 143, administered by DEP, requires businesses to comply with spillage prevention requirements for facilities located in the Special Flood Hazard Area. This law also permits DEP to perform inspections and issue violations for facilities that do not adhere to the rules. In the event of extreme weather, DEP will notify RTK businesses in the floodplain to either secure or remove hazardous materials before the event.
Hazardous Substances Emergency Response Law – The New York City Hazardous Substances Emergency Response Law (the “Spill Bill”) directs DEP to respond to releases and potential releases of hazardous materials. The City can order responsible parties to remediate hazardous conditions, and it can issue fines and/or hold them financially responsible for response and remediation costs.
FDNY Fire Code – FDNY’s Fire Code, updated in 2014, establishes fire safety requirements for buildings and businesses in New York City. The Code regulates the manufacture, storage, handling, use, and transportation of hazardous and combustible materials.
Solid Waste Transfer Station Oversight – For solid waste transfer stations within the city, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) manages a program that includes specialized permitting, site plan reviews, and inspections.
NYC Department of Health & Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) – DOHMH regulates radioactive material for medical, research and academic purposes within the five boroughs of New York City. Other licensees fall under the purview of NYS DOH. About 375 licensed sites in New York City possess radioactive material for medical, academic and research purposes. They are inspected once every 5 years depending on the type of radioactive material and/or radiation-generating machine use.
Regulation of Transportation of Hazardous Materials
Federal law governs shipments by water, highway, rail, air, and pipeline. Agencies at all levels of government implement and enforce these regulations.
Federal agencies primarily responsible for regulating the transportation of hazardous materials are listed below.
U.S. Department of Transportation – U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) regulations govern the transportation of hazardous materials by highway. USDOT requires that bills of lading identify the materials being shipped, and specifies standards for packaging materials, how packages should be marked and labeled, and types of placards required on vehicles. Under federal rules, each state may designate the highway routes for transporting hazardous materials.
As protection against oil spills along railways, USDOT has proposed new safety rules for rail shipments of crude oil. The new rules would require railroad tank cars to have better brakes and thicker steel walls than typical railroad cars. These rules would also lower speed limits, limit routes through populated areas, and require increased testing of the hazardous liquids’ properties.
USDOT Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) oversees, regulates, and enforces pipeline safety to minimize natural gas and petroleum product spills.
National Transportation Safety Board – The National Transportation Safety Board’s Office of Railroad, Pipeline, and Hazardous Materials Investigations examines accidents involving hazardous materials transport across all modes, and issues safety recommendations to federal and state regulatory agencies, industry and safety standards organizations, carriers and pipeline operators, equipment and container manufacturers, producers and shippers of hazardous materials, and emergency response organizations.
Federal Aviation Administration – The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Office of Hazardous Materials Safety enforces regulations and inspects freight and commercial aircraft. U.S. air carriers must institute an FAA-approved hazardous materials training program before transporting hazardous materials.
United States Coast Guard – For marine transport of hazardous materials, the USCG’s Hazardous Materials Division develops and maintains regulations, standards, and industry guidance to promote safety and protect property and the environment. This division provides technical assistance to other USCG units, government agencies, foreign governments, industries, and the public.
New York State Department of Transportation – In New York City, the New York State Department of Transportation enforces USDOT regulations on roads and highways. All roadway enforcement agencies can enforce these regulations, including the New York State Police.
NYSDEC Hazardous Waste Manifest System – NYSDEC issues waste transportation permits through its Hazardous Waste Manifest System. It tracks hazardous material movement, including where the hazardous materials are generated, transported, and disposed of.
New York State Navigation Law – The NYS Article 12 of the Navigation Law includes oil spill prevention, control, and compensation provisions.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey – The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) enforces USDOT regulations on commercial vehicle shipments of hazardous materials via its bridges and tunnels, including the George Washington Bridge, Bayonne Bridge, Goethals Bridge, Outerbridge Crossing, Lincoln Tunnel, and Holland Tunnel. PANYNJ also inspects cargo at its port facilities and airports.
NYPD Highway Patrol – NYPD Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Units can enforce USDOT regulations on New York City roads and highways.
Initiatives and Studies
City and state agencies are working alongside community organizations to carry out studies and implement programs to protect industrial areas and surrounding residential areas from chemical releases and to make them more resilient if one occurs. Initiatives range from offering recommendations to industries and local businesses on better securing hazardous materials, to offering resources to revitalize communities that contain vacant contaminated sites. Several are profiled here.
Resilient Industry initiative – NYC DCP launched the Resilient Industry initiative to assess the degree to which New York City’s industrial areas were vulnerable to flooding and to propose strategies that individual businesses and the City can implement to increase the resiliency of industrial areas and their surrounding communities. The study provides physical, regulatory, and operational strategies to protect businesses and the environment and includes the following flood-specific recommendations:
- For hazardous materials that are stored on unenclosed portions of industrial properties, outdoor shelving should be adequately anchored and incorporate enhanced joinery connections and brace corners. Shelving should include straps and cables to tie down materials.
- To prevent spills and leaks, industrial facilities should include flood-resilient storage for fuel tanks and hazardous materials. Specific strategies include wheeled mounts for fuel tanks and other equipment so that it can be moved to higher ground before a flood event, using containment bunds beneath stationary hazardous-material barrels and tanks to contain spills and leaks and fastening them to the ground to anchor them during a flood, using acid cabinets to store small amounts of hazardous materials, and implementing and regularly testing facility preparedness plans to reduce the risk of hazardous materials spills.
- Incorporate specific flood-resilient standards for open storage within Appendix G of the New York City Building Code.
NYSDE Drum Recovery Program – The NYSDEC Drum Recovery program focuses upon the recovery of abandoned drums containing non-flammable petroleum products such as waste oil, heating oil, and diesel. The NYSDEC receives reports of these drums from the NYSDEC Spills Hotline. According to the volume of calls received, the NYSDEC schedules routine “drum runs” where a NYSDEC contractor removes and disposes of the drums properly.xi
Waterfront Justice Project – At the community level, the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance’s (NYC-EJA) Waterfront Justice Project advocates for the implementation of additional technical and financial strategies to help businesses comply with environmental regulations, respond to the impacts of climate change, and build more resilient working waterfronts.
NYC Industrial Waterfront Project – The NYC Industrial Waterfront Project, a collaboration among NYSDEC, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, and NYC-EJA, has assessed local industrial businesses’ vulnerabilities, needs, and capacities in the South Bronx Significant Maritime Industrial Area. The project goals are to increase the capacity of these local businesses to adapt to climate change and prevent environmental pollution, and to identify technical and financial resources to facilitate this.
Grassroots Research to Action in Sunset Park – The Grassroots Research to Action in Sunset Park (GRASP) is a community-research partnership comprised of NYC-EJA, UPROSE, The LifeLine Group, and the RAND Corporation. The partnership conducts research to help develop and support community-based actions to address environmental health risks in Sunset Park. GRASP’s current initiative is focused on helping small businesses, specifically auto shops, implement chemical security practices to reduce the threat of chemical releases.
South Bronx Community Resiliency Agenda – The South Bronx Community Resiliency Agenda is an initiative organized by NYC-EJA with THE POINT CDC, which engages local communities to create a comprehensive climate resiliency agenda that strengthens the physical and social resiliency of the South Bronx.
Emergency Response Roles and Protocols
The following is a summary of agency roles and protocols in responding to a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incident.
FDNY HAZMAT Response – FDNY and DEP, NYSDEC, and NYPD are responsible for responding to HAZMAT incidents. These responsibilities include containing, confining, and capturing as much of the material as possible and limiting the impact on the public and environment.xii
DERTA HAZMAT Emergency Response – DEP’s HAZMAT Specialists are on call 24/7 to respond to reported incidents. Their response includes performing chemical analyses at response sites, determining delineation zones, and developing and implementing strategies on proper containment, mitigation, and disposal of hazardous materials, as well as decontamination procedures.xiii
NYSDEC Spill Response Program – NYSDEC responds to reports of petroleum and other HAZMAT releases. The nature of the response is based upon the type of material spilled, its potential environmental damage, and the degree to which public safety is at risk. The public can notify NYSDEC about releases by calling the NYS Spill Hotline, a 24-hour, toll-free hotline to report oil or chemical spills.
In addition, NYSDEC administers several related databases:
- The Spills Incident Database, which is a comprehensive list of approximately 50,000 current and historical spills throughout the New York City area
- The Petroleum Bulk Storage Database, which has approximately 26,000 listings for Petroleum Bulk Storage locations throughout the New York City areaxiv
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) – DOHMH’s role in a CBRN event includes:
- Disease Surveillance and Epidemiology
- Public Health Orders, Clinical Guidance and Risk Communication
- Mass Prophylaxis / Vaccination
- Laboratory Testing (Biological and Radiological)
- Public Health Assessment
- Environmental Mitigation (Radiological and Biological)
- Animal-Related Surveillance and Vector Control
- Mental Health Needs Assessment and Service Coordination
NYC Emergency Management – In response to a CBRN incident, NYCEM’s role is coordination with city, state, and federal agencies, creating and disseminating notifications to the public, and coordinating consequence management operations.
OER Site Preparation Planning – Before and after coastal storm events, the New York City Office of Environmental Remediation (OER) conducts inspections. It secures brownfield cleanup project areas that may be vulnerable to a HAZMAT release. Two days after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City, OER conducted inspections of 80 such sites. The results indicated that the cleanup methods promoted by OER effectively prevented pollutant release from the brownfield sites to the surrounding communities.
Education and Awareness
Examples of long-term strategies to assist businesses and the public in preparing for CBRN hazards in New York City include informing affected businesses about relevant regulations and facilitating compliance with permitting requirements, educating the general public about health and occupational hazards associated with hazardous materials, and improving community access to information about contaminated sites.
One example is the annual RTK training required of City agency employees. The training explains the types of hazardous substances to which employees could be exposed and their legal rights if this happens during a CBRN release.
After Hurricane Sandy, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a range of resources to help industrial properties in flood-prone areas manage hazardous materials and prevent spills during flood events. The EPA’s recommendations for reducing the risk of chemical spills include elevating chemicals off the ground, storing chemicals in areas less likely to flood, and securing storage cabinets.xv
As part of the Waterfront Justice Project, NYC-EJA and NYSDEC published Environmental Best Management Practices for Auto Repair, Auto Body, and Auto Salvage Industries. This comprehensive plan provides strategies to prevent HAZMAT spills, avoid pollution, and safely manage hazardous waste.