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My Right-to-Know: Know on the Go

2010 December 13

By Pam Russell

Imagine riding along on a sunny day with your window down and suddenly become aware of a nasty smell coming from a industrial plant along the highway. What kind of manufacturing process would result in such a bad smell? What kinds of chemicals are being spewed out and what could that mean to you and your health? What if you could consult your mobile phone to find out more? No, you don’t need to call the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can learn a lot from EPA’s mobile website, MyRTK (as in, Right to Know), right from your handy web-enabled mobile phone or device.

Take a minute right now so that you will be ready when you see something you want to check. Click on the “apps “tab of EPA’s Mobile home page and select “MyRTK” or you can point your browser to http://m.epa.gov/myrtk. If your device has a GIS chip, click on the map tab to see your current location. If not, use the search feature to find facilities in your neighborhood.

What happens next? You’ll get a screen where you can type in any location. Maybe you’re on the New Jersey Turnpike just past Newark Airport. You could type in “Newark” or “Newark, NJ”. Within just a few clicks, you’ll be able to map and identify the surrounding facilities, the chemicals they handle and what’s in their releases, the potential health effects of those chemicals, and the compliance history of the facilities releasing the chemicals. While the information on facilities and chemical disposals or releases is drawn primarily from the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI data base), facilities with major Air, Water or RCRA (hazardous waste disposal) permits are also mapped. TRI facilities have blue map pins; all others have gray map pins. The information on compliance for all facilities is drawn from the Enforcement and Compliance History Online System.

If you want to report a possible violation or contact someone, click on the “What can I do?” at the bottom of the facility information page for links to EPA’s violation reporting page and information on how to contact state personnel or EPA’s Regional staff.

The MyRTK mobile application is an important advance in giving people access to information. With MyRTK, anyone can easily access information about the surrounding environment and learn what chemicals disposals and releases may mean to their local community.

Feedback on this new application is welcome. Use the “Feedback” button at the bottom of the Facility Information page to send us your comments.

About the author: Pam Russell is a scientist who works on the development of TRI tools in the Office of Environmental Information. She enjoys working on issues that make EPA’s science and information more accessible to the public.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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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3 Responses leave one →
  1. alexander permalink
    December 13, 2010

    It’s a very good thing. I greet your undertaking. I hope it will be all over the world.

  2. Joan permalink
    December 13, 2010

    How wonderful that technology can help of us keep track of pollution and toxic chemicals that may be affecting our communities.
    However, in the example given, the driver is “on the New Jersey Turnpike” and would therefore need to pull over in order to use his phone to access this information.
    I believe New Jersey is one of the states where it is illegal to use a cell phone device while driving.

  3. Ryan permalink
    December 13, 2010

    Will not be long and analyzers will be built right into our cellulars and it will display or voice advise what the smell is. Thanks for the app!

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