Safety

Increasing Transparency through Improved Data Access

By Jessie Johnson

In college I worked with community groups to address local agriculture and food safety issues. During that time, I learned how many people in the community didn’t really understand these issues or what to do about them. I started to think about transparency and the importance of community involvement and education. I am thrilled to now be a part of the team working on the Enforcement and Compliance History Online tool, known as ECHO. This tool allows users to search facilities that are in non-compliance with environmental laws and helps make EPA enforcement efforts and companies’ actions more transparent for the general public.

Each year the ECHO team hears from users around the country about enhancements they would like to see. We have been working hard to create, promote, and improve the highlighted tools in the ECHO system and build new, useful tools. Some of our notable improvements include:

 2015 Highlights

  • Users now have a “Use My Location” feature on their mobile devices to find facilities within a three-mile radius.
  • When users search by case name, defendant name or facility name on the enforcement case search, they can choose to search for exact matches or names that begin with a search term.
  • An ECHO tool guide provides users with tips about tools for various analyses.
  • Pesticide Worker Protection dashboard provides a summary of enforcement and compliance aimed to reduce risk of pesticide poisoning and injury.
  • Online tutorials are available for clean water effluent charts, detailed facility reports, and the error reporting feature.

2016 Plans

I am also excited to share what’s in store for 2016. We will be focusing on improving ECHO tools and increasing public involvement. When I joined EPA, I came with a personal goal to help others get involved with knowing their environmental community and reporting on noncompliance of environmental laws. I am personally looking forward to seeing more public users and feedback so we can improve our enforcement efforts. But as a team, we have a lot of exciting projects for 2016 to help make ECHO more useful and informative for everyone.

  • Users will be able to search for criminal enforcement cases as well as the current opportunity to search civil enforcement cases.
  • Enhanced search results and mapping capabilities.
  • Water quality mapping.
  • Frequent tutorials and trainings for both public and government users.

After a great 2015 of modernizing ECHO I am looking forward to 2016!

Jessie Johnson is new to EPA as a program analyst with the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. She specializes in GIS technology and will be working to help improve the enforcement maps and training others in map analysis and has a particular interest in how GIS mapping can help improve enforcement and management efforts.

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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What About Our Pets?

Haga clic en la imagen para unirse a la conversación en nuestro blog en español... ¡No olvide de suscribirse!

By Lina Younes
This summer we’ve had our share of weather events from intense heat waves, unexpected storms wildfires, hurricanes and floods. Given that we still have nearly three more months of hurricane season, the threat of tropical storms is still there. While I’ve written several blogs on having a plan for these unexpected events, there is one thing that I haven’t addressed. What shall we do with our pets in an emergency?
If you have pets at home, make sure to make plans on how to ensure their safety before a storm or emergency. Most emergency shelters do not allow pets. So where are you going to take them if you have to evacuate your home or seek disaster refuge? As you develop your own emergency plan, take into consideration what you are going to do with your pets before, during and after a storm.
  • In advance of a storm, contact your local animal shelters and local animal control services for information on protecting your pets in an emergency.
  • The American Veterinary Medical Association also provides information and resources to assist veterinarians and animal owners to prepare for animal safety in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Develop a pet disaster supply kit for your animal. Make sure you have the proper identification, immunization records, a pet carrier, and the like. If you have a cat, also have a portable litter box and fresh litter handy to take with you in case you evacuate.
With the proper planning you can make sure that you and your pet will survive the emergency as best possible. Since September in National Preparedness Month, now would be a good time to get ready before it is too late.
About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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 Art of Underwater Choreography for EPA Scientific Diving

by Sean Sheldrake, EPA Region 10 Dive Team and Alan Humphrey, EPA-Environmental Response Team (ERT)

On the mind of the divers, as well as myself, an EPA divemaster, is always safety first and foremost. To be safe and deliver good science in a zero visibility underwater environment, choreography is key. While the divers don’t “dance” underwater very often, they do a dance of sorts with their equipment. Anchorage, current, wind, and other factors impact how the diver will deploy off the back of the vessel. Any misstep in the diver’s descent could cause lines to be crossed or severed, ruining data quality—and worse yet, could become a danger to the diver. EPA divers practice escape from entanglement problems on a regular basis, but underwater choreography ensures these situations are few and far between. Before I let any of my divers hit the water, they all must show me how each hand and fin will be placed as they deploy. We rehearse steps including exhausting air out of their bulky drysuit in preparation for descent, checking their remaining air gauges for their primary and emergency gas supply, and which hand each sampling instrument will be placed in. If lines are crossed during this “dry” drill, we terminate the exercise and start over. If the diver cannot show me how they can complete their task on the vessel, how can they complete it underwater with added distractions? Once the diver shows me how this can be done successfully on land, their 100 pounds plus of specialized diving equipment for contaminated water is donned. I’ll ask them one more time if they are feeling ok and ready to dive as we run through a predive checklist, much like ones pilots use before a flight. Any hesitation and they’ll be asked to step down without penalty from the day’s dives. Once all systems are go for the diver I will check for large vessels in the area and coordinate with the US Coast Guard as needed. We simply will not start a dive near a shipping lane with any possibility of vessels inbound. I tell the diver to “splash” and immediately we go back to the verbal cues we have rehearsed—“Sampler in the left hand, your communications cable in your right…let me know when you feel the bottom on your fin tips—that’s it, keep taking line downcurrent…you’re on target.”

Read more about the latest in EPA scientific diving at www.facebook.com/EPADivers

About the authors: Sean Sheldrake and Alan Humphrey both serve on the EPA diving safety board, responsible for setting EPA diving policy requirements. In addition, they both work to share contaminated water diving expertise with first responders and others.

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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At Sea with the Bold: Eel Grass Blues

Two staff members, Margot Perez-Sullivan and Margaret Ford, joined nine environmental scientists and the crew of EPA’s Ocean Survey Vessel (OSV) Bold to document science and research in action. Read the blog posts by Margot Perez-Sullivan from our San Francisco office to get an in-depth look at some of what’s involved in protecting our waters.

Day 2 (9.6.08):

It’s about 3 p.m. on Saturday and we haven’t left yet. We are waiting on Chris who is due to arrive any minute now. The engineers on board want to leave as soon as possible because the Eureka harbor is glutted with eel grass which is getting sucked into the ship’s cooling intakes and causing overheating problems for the Bold’s engines and other machinery. Rumors spread like wildfires on ships and I’m hearing that we might need to get a couple divers in the water to unclog our cooling intakes before we leave.

Since it was our first full day on the boat, and only a couple of us have been on Bold surveys before, the Captain and crew had a ship orientation for the swabbies or green horns (aka the newbies). We covered safety procedures mostly– which included the steps for a “man overboard” incident. SCARY! Makes me think of the film “Open Water.” If you haven’t seen it, don’t. It’s a true story. Enough said, but I digress…During the orientation we all filled out emergency contact information and got a tour of areas we will be working in and the ground rules, which include wearing life vests and hard hats while on deck during all survey operations.

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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