Improving Access to Environmental Data through ECHO
By Rebecca Kane
I work at the Environmental Protection Agency because I care about protecting communities from pollution. I believe that information is critical to taking action, be it working with stakeholders to affect local policies or empowering citizens with tools to reduce their environmental footprint.
I manage EPA’s Enforcement and Compliance History Online website, known as ECHO, which provides information about environmental inspections, violations and enforcement actions for EPA-regulated facilities, like power plants and factories. As one of our most important and popular resources, ECHO houses information about more than 800,000 facilities nationwide, and last year, it was visited more than 2 million times. I consider it an important tool to staying informed about my community in suburban Washington, DC.
Recent updates to ECHO allow me, and all who want to stay informed about environmental issues in their community, to find information more efficiently and accurately. Here are some examples of how these upgrades help me use the data:
- We’ve brought back the popular Clean Water Act features, and now it’s easier to find data about water violations and inspections.
- I can search for Clean Water Act dischargers based on type of pollutants discharged. For example, I can quickly find facilities in the area that discharge metals and check to see whether they are meeting their permitted discharge limits. This matters if my family wants to fish or swim in nearby streams and rivers.
- When I download data to analyze violations at facilities near my neighborhood, I can see information that’s been updated within the week.
- I can now encourage web developers to build EPA’s enforcement data directly into their own web pages and apps, because ECHO reports are now built on web services.
I’m proud to be a part of ECHO’s continued development, and there’s more to come as we continue to advance our commitment to inform and empower the public. We’re always working on enhancements to ECHO, and welcome your feedback about the site.
About the author: Rebecca Kane is a program analyst who has worked at EPA for 13 years. She’s spent most of her time in the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and is leading the ECHO modernization effort.
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