My Right-to-Know: Know on the Go
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.
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