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Mercury Rising 2: Electric Boogaloo

2013 October 31

By Amber Tucker

Last week I briefly gave an introduction about mercury in the environment, and let you know that I would follow it up with  details from the September 12th, Mercury in the Environment Symposium held at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS.   Hosted by Haskell, with support from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), US EPA Region 7, and the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the symposium served as a gathering of minds from Tribal, Federal, and undergrad Haskell students, all ready to learn and discuss the effects of mercurial deposition and monitoring in our environment.

haskell

Haskell University, Lawrence, KS

We heard from David Gay, coordinator for the NADP, about the efforts of his agency to provide measurements of both depositional and atmospheric mercury across the country.  Their two programs, the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN), and the Atmospheric Mercury Network (AMNet), collaborate with several partners from federal and state agencies, Tribal Nations, universities and research institutions as well as private organizations and businesses, to monitor and collect data and provide high quality measurements to support an array of objectives.  This national monitoring network measures total mercury in one-week precipitation samples at 80 sites across the United States. The objective of the MDN is to develop a national database of weekly concentrations of total mercury in precipitation and the seasonal and annual flux of total mercury in wet deposition. The data will be used to develop information on spatial and seasonal trends in mercury deposited to surface waters, forested watersheds, and other sensitive receptors.

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is one of NADP’s members, and currently operates monitoring stations for the MDN.  Wet deposition uses air monitoring stations to collect data using weekly samples or samples collected daily within 24 hours of the start of precipitation.  All MDN samples are sent to the Mercury Analytical Laboratory (HAL), which analyzes all forms of mercury in a single measurement and reports this as total mercury concentrations.  They also operate stations to catch and measure litterfall.  The litterfall monitoring initiative offers a way for a NADP site sponsor to get measurements to approximate a large part of the mercury dry deposition in a forest landscape. These samples are analyzed for the presence and concentration of mercury and methylmercury.

We heard from EPA R7 staff on additional monitoring methods, one of which is the Regional Ambient Fish Tissue (RAFT) Program.  Many of the Region 7 Tribes use data from fish tissue samples to determine the mercury content in their local waterways.  This is valuable information not only from an environmentally conscious standpoint, but this data also allows them to determine whether or not fish consumption advisories need to be in effect.

stanholder

Stan Holder of EPA Region 7 discussing the RAFT program

As part of the symposium, Tej Atili from the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas Environmental Department hosted a fish tissue sampling demonstration.  Literally hands-on, this demo allowed attendees to go through the process of clearing a small area in the dorsal area of scales, extracting samples using an 8 millimeter biopsy punch, and inserting the sample into a sterile scintillation vial.   While our tissue donor was of the frozen fillet variety, Tej walked us through what the “live” process entails and the importance of following proper procedures and protocol in sampling.  He also sprung a surprise math lesson on us; how to calculate the appropriate daily consumption rate of fish based on body weight.  While my calculations were all wrong (math is NOT a strong suit of mine), the equation that goes into it is actually quite interesting.  If I’m ever in a bind and need to know how much tuna I can eat though, I’m going to need some help; surely there’s an app for that!

fishbiopsy

Tej Atili of the Kickapoo of Kansas demonstrating how to obtain a fish biopsy

Spending a day at my alma mater learning about mercury and sampling methods was a blast, and based on the turnout and positive feedback on this symposium, I hope they continue to hold it in the future, and maybe expand it.  In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about mercury monitoring and effects,  you can let your fingers do the walking and head over to EPA’s Mercury Page.  Also see NADP’s Mercury Deposition Network Page.   Until next time, I bid you adieu and wish you better fish-consumption calculation skills than I possess.  Seriously though, there’s gotta be an app for that!

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Mercury Rising (Bruce Willis Not Included)

2013 October 25

By Amber Tucker

On September 12th, staff from EPA visited Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, KS, not in an attempt to crack a top secret code (see “Mercury Rising” on IMDB), but rather to convene in an effort to learn about another kind of rising mercury. Hosted by Haskell, with support from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), US EPA Region 7, and the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the “Mercury in the Environment” Symposium served as a gathering of minds from Tribal, Federal, and undergrad Haskell students, all ready to learn and discuss the effects of mercurial deposition and monitoring in our environment.  Over the next two blog posts I hope to share with you information about mercury in the environment, and how EPA and Tribal Nations in the Region are studying its presence in the environment

Mercury is a naturally occurring element (Hg on the periodic table) that is found in air, water and soil. It is an element in the earth’s crust, which humans cannot create or destroy. Contrary to what some Queen fans may tell you, “Freddie” is not an officially-recognized form of mercury. Pure mercury is a liquid metal, sometimes referred to as quicksilver that volatizes readily. It has traditionally been used to make products like thermometers, switches, and some light bulbs. It exists in several forms: elemental or metallic mercury, inorganic mercury compounds, and organic mercury compounds. Elemental or metallic mercury is a shiny, silver-white metal and is liquid at room temperature. If heated, it is a colorless, odorless gas.

mercury
Many of us might recall mercury being in thermometers, some older generations may even recall taking those little balls of that silver stuff out of said thermometers and playing with those mystical little balls of silver that weren’t quite liquid but not quite a solid either. My dad recalled rolling it around in his hands and watching it disappear. With the knowledge we have today, it goes without saying that that’s a really bad idea.
Mercury is found in many rocks, including coal. When coal is burned, mercury is released into the environment. Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (Source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory). EPA has estimated that about one quarter of U.S. emissions from coal-burning power plants are deposited within the contiguous U.S. and the remainder enters the global cycle. Burning hazardous wastes, producing chlorine, breaking mercury products, and spilling mercury, as well as the improper treatment and disposal of products or wastes containing mercury, can also release it into the environment. Current estimates are that less than half of all mercury deposition within the U.S. comes from U.S. sources.

mercurymap
Mercury in the air eventually settles into water or onto land where it can be washed into water. Once deposited, certain microorganisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. Fish and shellfish are the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans. Methylmercury builds up more in some types of fish and shellfish than others. The levels of methylmercury in fish and shellfish depend on what they eat, how long they live and how high they are in the food chain. Birds and mammals that eat fish are more exposed to mercury than other animals in water ecosystems. Similarly, predators that eat fish-eating animals may be highly exposed. At high levels of exposure, methylmercury’s harmful effects on these animals include death, reduced reproduction, slower growth and development, and abnormal behavior.

Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. Research shows that most people’s fish consumption does not cause a health concern. However, it has been demonstrated that high levels of methylmercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn. Methylmercury is a deceptive little bugger when it comes to cell recognition; it’s completely absorbed in the human GI tract, where its half life in the blood stream is 50 days.  Its chemical structure is very similar to that of the essential amino acid methianine, which allows it to sneak past the bouncers at the front door of our cells, but when it gets in the door and incorporates into proteins, it wreaks havoc and results in abnormal cellular structure and function; a case of mistaken identity that wreaks havoc on those with developing systems.  For additional info on the health effects of mercury, click here.

EPA works with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and with states and tribes to issue advice to women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and parents of young children about how often they should eat certain types of commercially-caught fish and shellfish. Fish advisories are also issued for men, women, and children of all ages when appropriate. In addition, EPA releases an annual summary of information on locally-issued fish advisories and safe-eating guidelines to the public. Fish is a beneficial part of the diet, so EPA & FDA encourage people to continue to eat fish that are low in methylmercury. For more information, please click here .

In my next blog post, I will discuss what was covered in the Symposium and how we can see the Mercury Fall, not just as temperatures cool as we enter Autumn, but as we move forward as partners.

Amber Tucker is an Environmental Scientist who serves as a NEPA reviewer for EPA Region 7.  She is a graduate of Haskell University and serves as Region 7′s Special Emphasis Program Manager for Native American Employment Programs.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The federal government is currently shut down

2013 October 1

The federal government is currently shut down

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

3rd Helping of Acronym Soup – CAA

2013 September 27

By Jeffery Robichaud

About six months ago I brought you  the first installment of a series about Environmental Regulations  – an article about the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  My intention was to circle through several of our Nation’s environmental laws.  Shawn Henderson helped me out in May with another Acronym Soup post about the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).  Unfortunately, the summer proved busier than I expected, but I’m here to Clear the Air (pun intended).cover_sm

We really think of the modern Clean Air Act (CAA) as dating back to 1970 the same year as the birth of the Agency itself, even though there was CAA seven years earlier in 1963 which focused mostly on research.  The CAA shifted the nation’s approach to addressing air pollution by  authorizing the development of comprehensive federal and state regulations to limit emissions from both industrial and mobile sources of air pollution.  The CAA begot four major programs all with their own now familiar acronyms: the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), State Implementation Plans (SIPs), New Source Performance Standards (NSPS), and National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs).  You can read about each of these programs and subsequent amendments to the CAA here or check out the Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act by clicking on the cover image to the right.

We previously shared information about the AirNow website and AirData both which are great resources to visit to find out information about the quality of air in your neighborhood.  There are some pretty powerful analytical tools on AirData which even allow you to graphically display daily air quality over the course of a year in the metropolitan area of interest to you.  Below I pulled up a graph of PM10 and Ozone (2 criteria pollutants under the CAA) in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area for 2012.  You can see how ozone becomes more problematic as the summer begins, while PM 10 is fairly consistent throughout the year.

omaha

For the geospatial enthusiasts among you, it is possible to download csv files of all of the air monitoring stations across the country at the bottom of this page. You can download the data for each site of interest through the mapping application on the same page, or return to AirData and click on the download data button to download multiple sites within a state or metropolitan area.

monstationsmap

Unlike the days prior to the establishment of the Clean Air Act, air pollution today is often difficult to see.  These new tools should help you to see what is going on across the country and outside your window.

Jeffery Robichaud  is a second generation EPA scientist who has worked for the Agency since 1998. He currently serves as Deputy Director of EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.  He has successfully transitioned mowing duties to his oldest son, who now receives the strange stares from passers-by who gawk at the family’s electric mower, purchased several years ago to help air quality in the Kansas City area.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Water Snake Programming: A simple technical report

2013 September 19

By Casey J. McLaughlin

Sometimes GIS development is about making maps easier for other people.  ArcGIS’s Python Add-ins functionality is a really easy way of automating map tasks and making mapping easier for end-users.  My first add-in was really simple but also reminded me why I’m only a part-time programmer…..

Python.org

Python.org

Many years ago I built a map document for helping TMDL permit reviewers see what was going on in the watershed.  Users work in a database and when ready, open a document that displays the watershed.  There are 147 HUCs approximating watersheds in Region 7.  I wrote a VBA script that fires when the document is opened which goes and grabs the HUC_ID from a database generated text file.  The script then sets the definition query and zooms to the HUC.  When the map opens, the user can start working right in the area of interest.  It’s a fairly simple routine that saves users from a few simple steps.

All good things require updates and this summer the application needed a minor update – of course we also added 50+ data layers so maybe it wasn’t minor!  Besides data, the script I wrote 5+ years ago also needed revision, especially because ArcGIS has discontinued support for VBA.

Yes, ArcGIS Desktop 10 does support Microsoft VBA. However ArcGIS 10 is the last version with VBA support, so we encourage you to start the migration process.  Python is an integral part of ArcGIS Desktop for automating tasks and the new add-in capabilities allow developers to easily create and deploy ArcMap customizations

ESRI recommends migrating VBA code to Python.  I think this is fantastic – Python is an open source, easy to learn, widely supported, multi-use, and generally fun language.  When I first started writing Python, I spent an hour writing a program that had taken me a week in VBA (maybe a slight exaggeration but back then I felt programming in VBA was like getting turned into a newt…and yes, I got better).

ArcGIS now supports a really easy interface for creating Python add-ins.  The new method is really easy but I haven’t been programming in ArcGIS for awhile so I watched the 60 minute training video and immediately started programming (yes, I read the docs, honestly).   The program I wrote performs the same function; when opening a TMDL document, find the HUC_ID and zoom to it.

The python script:

 def openDocument(self)
 mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument(“current”)
 mxd_name = os.path.splitext(os.path.basename(mxd.filePath))[0]
 ##Only try this if it is a TMDL document or in the TMDL directory
 if mxd_name.find("TMDL") == 0:
 #Open the IFO file and parse out the HUC ID
 ifo = mxd.filePath.rstrip(mxd.filePath[-3:]).upper() + "ifo"
 #check if it exists and then parse it out
 openFile = open(ifo, 'r')
 huc = openFile.readline().split(",")[2] ## Grabs the 3rd comma delimited element from the 1st line
 df = mxd.activeDataFrame
 lyr = arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd, "8 Digit HUC", df)[0] ## Should look at source?
 lyr.definitionQuery = u"HUC_ID ='" + huc.strip() + "'"
 recordCount = len(arcpy.Describe(lyr).fidset.split(";")) ##Get number of features, if it is 1, zoom, otherwise it should error
 if recordCount == 1:
 df.extent = lyr.getExtent()
 arcpy.RefreshActiveView()
 else:
 pythonaddins.MessageBox(lyr.name + " found " + str(recordCount) + " records for HUC " + str(huc) ,"Error Selecting HUC", 0)
return

I was happy because I tested the script in the Python window in ArcGIS and it worked! I could make the startUp() function fire, but since none of the data was loaded, my function needed to be in openDocument(). Again, smooth sailing until I realized I couldn’t make the openDocument() function fire….or any function that wasn’t the startUp()! I didn’t find anything helpful during an internet search so I took a walk around the lake and a simple thought occurred to me about extensions. They need to be clicked ON to work! This was my gotcha moment – that time when I realized one little detail that I had overlooked.

I’m all done writing my extension and it works well-enough (suggestions are welcome). Now the users can zoom directly to their area of interest. Of course, I think it’d work better as a web map, but I’ll leave that for a future request, perhaps in 5 more years.

TMDL_EXAMPLE_APPLICATION

Casey McLaughlin is a first generation Geospatial Enthusiast who has worked with EPA since 2003 as a contractor and now as the Regional GIS Lead. He currently holds the rank of #1 GISer in EPA Region 7′s Environmental Services Division.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Visualizing Time Series E.Coli in the Blue River Watershed

2013 September 16

By Scott Malone

Previously I provided a glimpse into the world of data management and the various challenges associated with formatting and managing geospatial data. After explaining the process of data management and customization in my last post, let’s review my experience with creating a time series animation.

KCWaterBug Main Legend

KCWaterBug Main Legend

My animation, as I mentioned previously  started with data.  I used the modeled E Coli measurements as an overall indicator of each site’s water quality.  Remember that modeled E Coli readings occur every fifteen minutes and I used a four month time period which meant more than 700,000 readings all together!   Attempting to symbolize every reading within the animation would have been a classic case of too much information. With this in mind, I decided to use the daily maximum value of the modeled E Coli readings cutting down the volume of the data while still maintaining a representative of the daily water quality. Visualizing one value per day made the most sense for my time series animation and the observer’s sanity. To distinguish the varying states of water quality I used threshold values pulled from the Water Bug mobile application offered through KCwaters.org as a template.

 You can find out more about Kansas City water quality and how
the KCWaterBug mobile app keeps the public informed here.

 As a background for the time series animation I used a land cover map (2006 NLCD)  in hopes of generally linking the extent of an areas development to stream water quality. Looking at the animation, you can clearly see the stream located almost fully in the heart of the urban core, Brush Creek, has some serious water quality issues.  The two telemetry sites on the stream change from red to yellow only once over the four month time span of the animation. In no way is this a definitive statement about the link between urban development and water quality however it is interesting to note that  streams considered “fringe urban streams” located in less developed areas such as Wolf Creek have a much more diverse range of water quality classifications during the same time period.

 There is more to water quality than rain storms and E. Coli.
Find out about PAHs in Kansas City streams here.

Another interesting trend visible in the time series animation is how E Coli levels follow precipitation events. Using precipitation data from StormWatch.com a Johnson County, Kansas regional weather service I was able to compare date precipitation events with the modeled E Coli. After a rainfall of an inch or so, modeled E Coli levels elevate, often into the red zone indicating a stream with waters unfit for contact (see fig. 1). Within a day or two most of the streams readings return to a safer level. All this is to say it would be safest to give a stream a couple of days after a heavy rainfall before swimming.

 

KCWater Stream Monitors

The stream monitors advise no water contact after a rain event.

Constructing a visually appealing and informative time series animation while not near as trying as the data management side of the project was not without its challenges. All of the classic challenges of constructing a static map combined with the unique trials a time series animation presents made this project a very interesting endeavor. Managing and properly formatting a massive amount of time sensitive data while presenting an understandable and informative final product was a complicated yet rewarding experience. However my course work up to this point was more useful in addressing the problems that arose relating to cartography and typical GIS quirks, as opposed to the data management side of the project which was eye opening.

As I began my internship here at the EPA’s Region 7 I considered myself a competent GIS user during my time here I was exposed to a wide range of “Information” issues that made me if only for a second question that assumption. However as I wrap up this experience I can say with confidence that I have a deeper understanding of the intricacies of data management and map construction. Working on a project intended to provide the public with a greater understanding of water quality issues on a local level was rewarding in its own right on top of which the experience and knowledge I gained will help me as I move forward toward a career. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Casey McLaughlin and all the fine folks here at region 7 for their help this summer and suggest that you take a look at the fruit of my labor.

Scott Malone recently graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Environmental Studies.  He spent part of summer 2012 as a voluntary intern with the Environmental Services Division where he worked with LiDAR, land cover, and water quality telemetry data.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Flat Stella and Stanley’s Trip Down Old Man River

2013 September 10

Last month Stanley and Stella took a trip on the middle part of the Mighty Mississippi from St. Louis, Missouri to Cairo, Illinois.  Here is a picture of Stanley getting on board and preparing for their trip down river.  Keep an eye out for their adventure in the coming weeks.  And don’t forget to check out Stanley and Stella Explore the Environment, their very own blog.

stanley

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Ozark Gems

2013 September 9

By Tegan Vaughn

Are you still deciding whether or not to take a trip before the summer is over? There is no need to spend a lot or travel far to have a fabulous weekend getaway. I highly recommend exploring the Ozarks.

I grew up in the heart of the Ozarks, on a tributary to the Jacks Fork River.  To some folks, when I say I grew up in the Ozarks, their minds automatically go to party boats and Branson. Well, the places my mind wanders to when I think of home are the lush, green hills; the cool, clear streams; and the shade of towering Oaks. To me, an adventure in the Ozarks is worth 10 visits to any amusement park. Let me tell you about a few gems.

 

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

Speaking of adventure parks, the Ozarks has one carved by nature.  Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park is located in Reynolds County on the East Fork of the Black River. Water rushes over igneous rock that’s been smoothed by tumbling pebbles over the eons.  The Missouri State Park websites tempts potential travelers to come “shoot through Mother Nature’s hydraulics.” But not to worry, I can tell you from experience that it’s relatively safe.

 

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

Next on the list, and nearby to Johnson’s Shut-ins, is Elephant Rocks State Park. Here you’ll find large, reddish-pink granite boulders that resemble Dumbo. This park has a main trail that includes Braille for the visually impaired and many other places to explore if you want to get off the beaten path.

 

grandgulf

Photo Courtesy of Missouri State Parks

Grand Gulf State Park–Sometimes referred to as a “little Grand Canyon,” Grand Gulf is a mile long collapsed dolomite cave near Thayer, Missouri. The “walls” are more than 130 feet tall. Visitors at the top have quite the dramatic view.  When it rains, water drains into a cave at one end of Grand Gulf and ends up in Mammoth Springs, headwaters of Arkansas’ Spring River. http://www.mostateparks.com/park/grand-gulf-state-park

alleyspring

Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service

 Alley Spring – This charming three story mill was built in 1894 to utilize the free water power of Alley spring to turn wheat to flour. The water is an incredible blue green and emerges from deep in the earth with an average daily flow of 81 million gallons. Water from the spring flows to the Jacks Fork River.

 

roundspring

Photo is courtesy of www.current-river.com

Round Spring – This beautiful spring reminds me of a cenote. It is a brilliant turquoise blue. Every day, about 26 million gallons of water comes up from the earth (55 feet down from the surface of the pool), then flows under a natural bridge and out to the current river. Near the spring is Round Spring cave.  This cave is home to a bat maternity colony and beautiful cave formations. The cave is gated, but in the past, cave tours have been available in the summer months.

 

 

Photo Courtesy of www.ruralmissouri.org

Photo Courtesy of www.ruralmissouri.org

Rocky Falls – This dramatic destination is located near Eminence and Winona, Missouri.  The 40 ft. falls are made up of rhyolite, a reddish-purple igneous rock. Rocky Creek cuts its way through the rock and creates a rippling, merry cascade that falls down to a great swimming hole.

There is nothing like visiting the breathtaking places right in our back yard. Their beauty reminds me of why we at the EPA and our Federal, State, and local partners work hard to protect and preserve these treasures. I live in Kansas City now, but my heart will always live in the Ozark hills.

Tegan Vaughn has worked at EPA Region 7 for three years in the Policy and Management Division. She graduated from UMKC with a BA in Environmental Studies and Minors in Geography and Sustainability. She currently resides in Olathe, KS.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Environmental Impact Statements Are on the Map!

2013 September 5

By Aimee Hessert

Do you ever wonder how a proposed project will affect the environment where you and your family live, work and play? We’re making it easier to find out. We’ve developed a simple, interactive map to help you learn about environmental impact statements in your area.

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires federal agencies proposing major projects or making decisions on major federal actions to develop environmental impact statements (EIS), which describe the potential environmental effects (both good and bad) of proposed projects that require federal approval, or other federal actions. The idea is to give you a view into, and a voice in, the federal agency decision-making process.

The map allows you to see what projects have EISs that are currently open for public review and comment, while also viewing EPA’s comments. Now it’s easier for local residents to access valuable information, stay informed and get involved, right at their fingertips.

Take a few minutes to check out the EIS Mapper. All you need to do is hover your mouse over your home state for easy-to-understand information about projects that may affect you. From there, you can review each project’s environmental impact statement and find out how to share your thoughts while the comment period is open.

In this information technology age, transparency empowers progress. Stay informed and get involved.

Check out EPA’s EIS Mapper here: http://eismapper.epa.gov.

EPA's Environmental Impact Statements by State Mapper

EPA’s Environmental Impact Statements by State Mapper

 

Aimee Hessert is the Deputy Director of EPA’s NEPA Compliance Division.  She has worked on GIS and IT initiatives for EPA’s NEPA program since 2004.

Learn More!:  The web-based mapping tool, NEPAssist is designed to help promote collaboration and early involvement in the NEPA process by allowing the user to raise and identify important environmental issues at the earliest stages of project development.  Read the full blog post here.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Maps Begin with Data

2013 August 28

By Scott Malone

This summer, I worked with the Environmental Protection Agency, in Lenexa Kansas as a voluntary intern.  I learned that making a time-series map takes more than just getting data and putting it into ArcGIS.  For my summer project, I created a time-series animation of water quality trends using data from the Kansas City Urban Stream Network.

KCwaterbug LogoHosted at KCWaters.org, the project is “dedicated to promoting greater awareness about the quality of water in the Greater Kansas City Area.”  Using data acquired every 15 minutes over a 4 month time period (March 1st through July 10th, 2013) I created an animation showing water quality trends over our wet spring and early summer months.  The process of constructing a visually informative and appealing animation from raw data was full of challenges.  Unlike the canned projects I was accustomed to from my GIS courses in college, this project involved a significant amount of data manipulation before I was able to ever open up an Arcmap project and begin map-making.

Track stream conditions hourly using KCWaterbug.  Find out more.

sondeThe Urban Stream Network consists of eighteen sites spaced across sixteen streams in the Kansas City metro area.  Each site consists of a stream probe and telemetry box which collects readings on water temperature, conductivity, turbidity, and water depth. The readings are transmitted via satellite and compiled into a database using software called WISKI from a company named KISTERSE Coli data is modeled for each stream (you can find out more at http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2008/5014/) based on other variables collected by instrumentation.  With readings done every fifteen minutes over four months, I worked with an initial dataset of over 700,000 records grouped by station by each parameter all wrapped into one fun text file.  I definitely experienced the joys of taking data and running through multiple processing steps before enjoying the fruits of my labor in a GIS friendly database.

 

telemtry_table

Not quite formatted for ArcGIS

First, I removed the header information (station name, number, other identifiers) provided for each parameter and converted it into a spreadsheet friendly format.  I painstakingly created a spread sheet for each stream (16, remember), transposed data, added stream names, and added parameter names.  With over 40,000 records for each stream (16, remember) the process was time consuming.  Unfortunately such data processing can become necessary when working from data extracted for purpose different than my own.  Once each stream was standardized, I combined them back together into a GIS usable table.

Adding time, or rather converting time, was another detail that I learned wasn’t always simple.  Of course, creating a time-series map necessitates time stamps that ArcGIS can use for creating a time-aware dataset.

After running through this data manipulation exercise, I now have a much greater understanding of data management.  I completely value having data in databases and extracting it out for an intended purpose.  I also appreciate that the *I* in GIS is there for a very important reason!  My next post will review how I took the telemetry data and started looking for interesting and useful trends.

Scott Malone is a graduate from the University of Kansas with a degree in Environmental Studies.  He spent part of summer 2012 as a voluntary intern with the Environmental Services Division where he worked with LiDAR, land cover, and water quality telemetry data.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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