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Science Wednesday: BP Oil Spill Data Tools – Part II

2010 July 14

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.

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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18 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Ms. Mills & colleagues…., I impressed to your dedication in EOC with collecting the datum and then to inform to audiences with many ways. Data is variable, but you are capable… Good luck !!!!!

  2. Franklin Murphy permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Thanks for all the hard work you do Ms. Mills-Anley. It is with great American oversight and inginuity that we will fix the problem that this British company wrought on our water and soil. Living near Port Fourchon this data will help us immeasurably. If you are ever in LaFourche county be sure to stop in for an old fashoned cajun dinner.

  3. melissaEPA permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Thank you! A Cajun dinner sounds delicious right about now.
    Speaking of inventiveness and creativity, if people have technology solutions to respond to the oil spill, please do submit them via this link:

  4. melissaEPA permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Thank you, there are many, many people working to respond to the oil spill in the Gulf.

    I hope people will try out the sampling and monitoring data download tool ( and let us know what they think!

  5. Felipe Cervantes-Sotelo permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Hopfuly with the submarine (M1) robotics help the oil spill will be solved within a week or so and may be in two weeks the oil will be recovered to the surface for the public use, and with some help from somewhere the whole spill will be cleaned, will see

  6. Reuben Lucius Goldberg permalink
    July 14, 2010

    Have you noticed that many of the comments on EPA’s blog come from just two people?

  7. melissaEPA permalink
    July 15, 2010

    That’s right, Moira, EPA is now participating in the Interagency Alternative Technology Assessment Program (IATAP) which is a cross government effort to address and evaluate possible technology solutions for the oil spill response efforts.

  8. Bob Cassell permalink
    July 19, 2010

    Very nice! Keep up the great work!

  9. Amy Mutual permalink
    July 20, 2010

    I would like to see the same color-coded chart the EPA is currently posting for LA for MS-AL-FL on the site. Also, why can’t this data be posted real-time, instead of the following day? Those of us who live on the Gulf Coast are very concerned about air quailty. Some of the levels shown in the data tables available for download are well above the hazardous levels, and we don’t ever hear about it. How are we supposed to know when the EPA sees a 2-5 hr period of time when it is unsafe for us to be outdoors.

    It is absolutely wrong to let us think it is safe here if it isn’t, and according to the data tables it clearly isn’t in certain areas. There are thousands of people here -children, moms, dads, elderly -that need to know if and when it is unsafe to be outside. We also need to know if we need to move permanently. It is the EPA’s responsibility and duty to report to us, in real-time, if the conditions here are hazardous to our health -both short-term and long-term.

  10. EverGreen permalink
    July 22, 2010

    Ms Melissa and the team, I appreciate all you are doing. And wanted to share something I read about the bio-remediation process using “Oilzapper”, the Oilzapper is essentially a cocktail of five different bacterial strains that are immobilized and mixed with a carrier material (powdered corncob).
    For more information you can refer;

    I wanted your help to know that whether this can work in cleaning the BP Spill and if yes, can you help to inform the concerned authorities about it so they can take action on cleaning the water.

  11. KristenEPA permalink
    July 23, 2010

    Dear Amy,

    You raise some excellent points about the display of our PM data. We are currently working on improvements to the site and your input will help us make our information more accessible to the public.

    The color-coded table you referred to in your comment is a table showing daily Air Quality Index (AQI) levels for coarse particle pollution, also called PM10. This data is from monitors in use in Louisiana. We also have near-real time AQI information available on fine particle pollution for Gulf Coast states – including Mississippi, Alabama and Florida That information is available at, or you can link to it from EPA’s BP Spill Response page at In addition, forecasts for the next days particle pollution and ozone levels are available at

    You mentioned some PM 10 readings in the code orange range at one of the Grande Isle, LA, monitors. The elevated levels at the Grande Isle 08 monitor have been attributed to windy conditions and beach cleaning that combined to stir up sand along the beach where the monitor is located. Other nearby monitors did not report similar readings, so it appears to be isolated to this particular location.

    As part of our effort to determine whether pollutants from the spill may pose health concerns for residents and visitors in the Gulf Coast region we are monitoring the air on shore for several pollutants associated with oil. Results of these samples can’t be posted in real time, because the samples require lab analysis. We have a team of experts examining the results as they come in, and so far, levels have been below levels that would pose long-term health problems. These data can be found on EPA’s BP Spill Response Air Data page. We will continue to work with local officials and the media to inform citizens if we detect air pollution at levels that would require immediate action.

    Again, we thank you for your input and we will continue to improve the access to our real-time monitoring and air quality data.

  12. Anna Louisiana permalink
    July 26, 2010

    Thank You for publishing this data. How do you collect your surface water samples?

    From my review, it seems as though levels of the Vanadium, Nickel, Toluene and Benzo compounds are deteriorating over time. awesome!

    Also, your reporting limits are often higher than your sample result.

  13. Ann permalink
    July 27, 2010

    The data download tool seems to only allow searches of air data. Can you please advise me as to when the other environmental data (e.g. water data) will be searchable?

  14. Mitch Beard permalink
    August 9, 2010

    Can we get these data in EQuIS EDDs or databases?

  15. askthecoolman permalink
    January 10, 2011

    Great post .Thanks for sharing.Will definately be returning for updates.

  16. Downloads permalink
    October 31, 2011

    Those are just some of the uses teenagers have for their free music ringtones, what we know for sure is that a few years ago it would have sound silly to think that a new industry will be growing just out of free music ringtones. But this new generation of teenagers is more sophisticated and associated with technology than ever before. At a very young age, they are familiar with computers, cell phones, software, the internet and more.

  17. Anonymous permalink
    August 1, 2012

    Dear Blog,
    I was wondering on a similar note, Working in factories would mean that you work with a lot of heavy machinery. This usually equates to a lot of oil spills and leaks as these machines require a lot of maintenance to work smoothly everyday. This is why you will need an effective oil spill absorbent to prevent spills from causing accidents or creating a lot of mess. One such product line that would cater to your needs is the Spilfyter absorbents as they have universal products that can effectively absorb spills of any type and oil-only products that are made for absorbing oil and hydrocarbons only.
    All the Best

  18. permalink
    September 5, 2013

    Agree with this statement.

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