Project Summary: THEA has partnered with researchers at the Rice University School of Architecture to consolidate available data on toxins in our local environment and how they interact with flooding and runoff patterns in Harris County. This data existed previously across a myriad of spreadsheets and reports published by several different agencies. Our goal for the project was to consolidate the available information and create a spatial-visual resource that can be used to help stakeholders at all levels understand potential threats to our environment and patterns of inequity in Houston’s environmental pollution. We are grateful to our partners at Rice for their work in building a detailed story map, overlaying datasets in a visual, interactive format to help our community gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between toxic pollution and our water sources.  

Key Takeaways: The story map offers several key insights into how Harris County neighborhoods experience toxic pollution through uneven runoff. Here are a few of the critical takeaways we learned from the presentation of the new mapping resources:

  1. The areas in Harris County at risk of flooding are increasing. FEMA’s floodplain data shows that seven out of Harris County’s 25 historic Superfund Sites are vulnerable to flooding, but Hurricane Harvey in 2017 proved this FEMA data to be out of date. Flooding from Harvey threatened nearly all 25 sites.
  2. The burden of toxic pollution in Harris County falls disproportionately on socially vulnerable communities. Social vulnerability is defined by the CDC as “potential negative effects on communities caused by external stresses on human health.”
  3. Cancer rate data across the county is incomplete. Through efforts like the THEA Community Health Survey, we can gather more thorough and accurate data on cancer rates and overlay that data on this map to gain a more detailed picture of the relationship between cancer rates and areas exposed to high levels of toxic pollution.

To explore these valuable tools on your own see below:

Uneven Runoff Interactive Story Map

Toxic Runoff Interactive Public Web Map