Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.
For the past eight weeks I’ve had the privilege of being involved in a small slice of EPA’s coordinated response to the tragedy of the BP oil spill. Spending time in the Public Information Officers (PIO) room of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) here in Washington DC, has only furthered my resolve that this is an Agency where people truly live the mission of protecting public health and the environment. Part of that dedication is a commitment to sharing the information and environmental data we have on the EPA’s BP spill website.
Since oil began pouring into the Gulf of Mexico, EPA has collected thousands of samples for chemicals related to oil and dispersants in the air, water and sediment. Jeffrey Levy’s blog post last week mentioned how the principles of open government and transparency govern our actions here as we post the EPA’s air, water, and sediment sampling and air monitoring data as quickly as possible.
On the website, we’ve focused on providing data as well as presenting EPA’s interpretation of it. Up until now, one way we’ve been providing the data is in chunks in .CSV files (a generic file that any spreadsheet program can read) or in a PDF spreadsheet – that’s pretty good but we can do better. So we’re pretty excited to be offering a few new tools that offer increased flexibility and options for people to access the data. Last week, Jeffrey mentioned Socrata and Google Earth, and today we’re announcing a new tool that gives you the ability to download data based upon criteria you select. You can download data based upon the date range you wish, whether you want to see air monitoring data or data from sampling efforts (from which you can select: air, sediment, surface water, waste or oil sample results from mousse, oily debris, tar, and weathered oil) and for all the states in which we’re gathering data (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana or Mississippi) or just one of these states.
This is the first version and we’ll be adding features to the data download tool, such as searching by chemical, chemical category or searching by county in the coming weeks. We will be phasing out posting of the spreadsheets, but we believe that putting you in the driver’s seat for how to sort and organize the data is a better way to share this data. We welcome your ideas for future versions and encourage you to visit the sampling and monitoring data download tool, try it out and share your feedback on ways we can improve the sampling and monitoring data download tool. We’ll work to incorporate as many of the suggestions as we can – so we’re hoping to see an active and constructive discussion in the comment section below so we can improve this tool together.
About the author: When not serving in the Emergency Operations Center, Melissa Anley-Mills is the news director for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She joined the Agency in 1998 as a National Urban Fellow.