The Environmental Impact of Distribution Centers on Their Communities

Updated: Oct 6


Now more than ever large online distributors are expanding their reach in both our digital and natural world. The increasing size of these e-commerce giants calls for the rapid development of distribution centers. These centers pose various environmental, economic, and societal impacts to surrounding communities. Distribution centers leave notorious ecological footprints and if left unstopped their trail may track right through your own backyard. In this blog post, learn about the various impacts distribution centers have on residential areas.

NOISE POLLUTION

We all love a peaceful walk, a quiet evening on the porch, and a good night’s sleep. What we don’t love is noise pollution that makes all three of these luxuries impossible. From large-scale construction to daily operations, distribution centers are LOUD. Heavy machinery, construction itself, loading packages, and heavy trucking all disrupt neighborhood peace. On top of these factors, distribution centers have 24/7 functionality.1 If an order can be made at 1 a.m., a shipment can also go out at 1 a.m.

Even if noise isn’t bothersome to residents, it is proven to be harmful to their health. Studies have shown that people exposed to noise pollution are at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, ear damage, and sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep alone can lead to various physical, mental, and emotional issues.2 3

AIR POLLUTION

With the heavy trucking involved in distribution center operations, it’s no surprise that air pollution is one the top impacts on their surrounding environment. The exhaust from burning diesel contains fine particulate matter. These fine particles significantly decrease air quality and contribute to ozone, acid rain, and climate change. Such high levels of emissions also decrease visibility, creating dangerous driving conditions for both employees and residents. 4

For residents, this air pollution can cause an increase in the risk of life long health problems in children, lung damage, and cause breathing difficulty for those with preexisting respiratory diseases. Each year across the U.S. particulate matter causes 15,000 deaths, diesel exhaust being a main contributor.4

WATER/WETLAND POLLUTION

Distribution centers cause both water and wetland pollution. Massive land removal and land development during construction greatly reduce the amount of land available for water absorption. This means more runoff and any oil and chemical leakage can make its way into nearby bodies of water, killing wildlife and destroying the delicately balanced ecosystems. The potential for oil and chemical leakage into ground water also increases, posing serious health risks to residents.5

POSSIBLE NEGATIVE SIDE EFFECTS

Noise pollution, air pollution, and water/wetland pollution are not the only possible negative impacts to your community. The list continues with:

  • Habitat destruction and forced wildlife relocation

  • Heavy daily truck traffic with limited route options increases travel time and frequency of motor vehicle accidents 6

  • Significantly decreases the value of properties, especially neighboring homes 7

  • Increased funds to hire more first responders must be hired to keep the town, distribution center, and its workers safe 8

  • The jobs created that seemingly provide security to residents are likely to be replaced in the future by robots and automated technologies 9

Consider these impacts when deciding whether a Distribution Center is a good fit for your community and town.


FOOTNOTES

1 : https://www.fox9.com/news/brooklyn-park-residents-worried-about-traffic-associated-with-potential-business-park

2 : https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/13/is-noise-pollution-the-next-big-public-health-crisis

3 : https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/sources-of-exposure/noise-pollution

4 : https://www.epa.gov/mobile-source-pollution/research-health-effects-exposure-risk-mobile-source-pollution

5 : https://www.pennlive.com/news/2019/11/residents-speak-out-against-proposed-1-million-square-foot-warehouses-in-rural-area.html

6: https://www.patriotledger.com/news/20191025/amazon-drops-braintree-plans

7 : https://homeguides.sfgate.com/effects-commercial-property-residential-value-7923.html

8: https://www.savehudsonnh.org/

9: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322898772_Environmental_Justice_in_W

arehousing_Location_State_of_the_Art

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

https://envhealthcenters.usc.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Storing-Harm.pdf

https://sites.google.com/view/distributioncenters/home#h.p_7hsA1mwxfKT8

https://www.mcall.com/business/mc-outlook-warehouse-automation-20170303-story.html

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We do not own the rights to the photographs of the site plans and renderings. These pictures have been taken from: https://www.hudsonnh.gov/bc-pb/page/hudson-logistics-center-proposal and https://www.hudsonlogisticscenter.com