Mapping Tool Scores Sites for Watershed Protection

 

by Tom Damm

Ralph Spagnolo and Ellen Bryson know their way around the state capitals in EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Region.  The regional Water Protection Division employees have been on the road helping states launch an innovative online mapping tool that prioritizes sites for watershed preservation or restoration.

They will be in Dover, Delaware this week to debut the Watershed Resources Registry for state employees and others.  In past months, they’ve led registry launches in other states in the region, and when Virginia unveils its version of the tool, it will be a clean sweep in the Mid-Atlantic.

What’s all the fuss about?

 Volumes of data and information are entered by federal, state and local agencies and non-profit groups into a user-friendly Geographic Information System (GIS).  The GIS tool scores sites from one to five stars and lets decision-makers zero in on the best areas for protecting and restoring watershed lands and improving stormwater management.

The data fed into the system ranges from soil type, land cover and flood plains to impaired and high-quality streams, protected lands and wetlands inventories.  The tool allows users to identify locations, assess and compare potential projects and their environmental impacts, print site maps for field visits, and share information.  It also helps to streamline the permitting process and provide transparency in site selection.

The registry is especially useful for developers, natural resource and transportation planners and others who are required to avoid impacting natural areas or to provide mitigation for any unavoidable impacts.

In February, an updated registry was made available to the public.  Check it out and see how teams of partners are working to protect watershed lands.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

 

 

 

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EJSCREEN: Coming to a Phone Near You

By Tai Lung

EPA’s environmental justice screening and mapping tool, EJSCREEN, consistently ranks as one of the most used tools on the agency’s website.

This week, EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) is announcing an enhancement that will make EJSCREEN even more useful. Based on requests and user

A captured launc screen image of the EJSCREEN on a mobile device

When visiting EJSCREEN on a mobile device, you will be given the option to launch the mobile optimized version.

feedback, OEJ is rolling out a mobile device enhanced version of EJSCREEN. This new mobile version contains the same key functions and features as the full version of EJSCREEN, but in a more compact, easily accessible format. This includes the ability to select locations, access reports, and to map environmental, demographic and EJ indicators.

Maps can tell powerful stories and make complex information easy to understand. As computer mapping technologies advanced, EPA recognized an opportunity to develop a

An EJSCREEN image of a more user-friendly platform

The EJSCREEN site is now available in a more user-friendly platform for your mobile device!

screening and mapping tool that advanced our environmental justice goals. This is how EJSCREEN came to be: as a tool for EPA staff to look at environmental and demographic factors related to environmental justice as we develop programs and policies that impact low-income, minority, and other overburdened communities.

In 2017, OEJ conducted a survey on EJSCREEN, which found that more than 62% of respondents believe EJSCREEN could be improved by optimizing it for use on mobile devices. That same survey found that community users only made up 19% of EJSCREEN total users. This finding raised questions as to whether there was a correlation between the low numbers of community users and the lack of a mobile version.

EJSCREEN was originally built for use on standard desktop and laptop computers.

This image displays some of the new features that EJSCREEN offers.

With the mobile version, you can still download reports and view the various demographic and environmental indicators.

However, this format is not always accessible to many stakeholders working in environmental justice communities. As a result, the EJSCREEN platform may not be useable to some of the same communities it was designed to help.

Research has found that low-income households have lower rates of in-home internet connectivity. These households are more likely to depend exclusively on smartphones or other handheld devices to access the internet. This “digital divide” presents an opportunity for the EPA to bridge the technological gap as it relates to the use of EJSCREEN.

As a result, EPA made building a mobile version of this important tool a priority. Because of the smaller screen size of mobile devices, the mobile optimized version of EJSCREEN does not have all the functionality of the full tool. However, it does contain the key features of EJSCREEN, and users that want the full features/content have the option to switch to the full desktop version even on mobile devices.

As EPA continues to develop EJSCREEN, we are committed to making the tool more useful and accessible for everyone, and this mobile version is a big step in that direction. OEJ hopes that you will test the mobile version of EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs.You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ to receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities and events.

An image depicting computer and internet use in 2013

Computer and Internet use in the United States in 2013

An image depicting devices ownership by people in th US

We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you enjoy the new mobile version of EJSCREEN!

About the Author: Tai Lung is the EJSCREEN Team Lead in EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Achieving Tangible Results for Vulnerable Communities

Charles Lee Charles Lee

Charles Lee, Senior Policy Advisor
Office of Environmental Justice, US EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued its Environmental Justice FY2017 Progress Report today. It is noteworthy that 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of the founding of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice. The accomplishments highlighted in the report affirm through action how, after a quarter century of progress, environmental justice (EJ) is deeply ingrained in EPA’s fabric.

An overarching focus of the report is demonstrating tangible results in minority, low-income, tribal and indigenous communities. Here are four results that illustrate progress from the past year:

  1. As EPA’s environmental justice program matured over the past two decades, it grappled with the difficult task of demonstrating environmental outcomes in vulnerable communities. EPA developed measures for several significant national EJ challenges, one of which was fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5). In FY2017, EPA documented that the percentage of low-income people living in areas meeting the PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards increased from 43% during the baseline period of 2006-2008 to 92% in (2014-2016).
  2. EPA similarly provided national results for enforcement actions and the environment benefits of such actions in areas with potential EJ concerns. For example, 35% of the 217 million pounds of pollutants estimated to be reduced, treated or eliminated from enforcement actions in FY2017 were in such areas. EPA is able to provide these results because the Agency systematically reviews all enforcement actions for EJ considerations. The report also highlights the importance of the EJSCREEN mapping and screening tool, which provides the starting point for these assessments.
  3. EPA and its federal, state, tribal and local government partners continue to collaborate to benefit communities. The Omaha Lead Superfund cleanup, affecting over 175,000 persons in a 27 square-mile area, reduced the percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels from 25% in 1999 to 0.3% in 2017. Other examples of beneficial collaborations are the improved air quality around ports, rail yards and freight distribution centers from $23.8 million in Diesel Emissions Reduction Act funding and the number of community drinking water systems returned to compliance with lead and arsenic standards in the Pacific Southwest.
  4. The report highlights the many ways EPA supports communities as they travel their own journeys to community health and revitalization. For example, with an EJ grant, “Project Oka” helped the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma maintain clean sources of water. An Urban Waters partnership assisted residents of the Martin Pena Channel, one of the poorest and most environmentally overburdened neighborhoods in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in creating an urban farm.

These results are but a few of the many accomplishments highlighted in this year’s progress report. Many of the examples required decades of effort, and are a testament to the long-standing commitment, innovation and hard work of the EPA staff who do this work on a day-to-day basis. They provide lessons for how we can all work together more effectively to address disproportionate environmental impacts, health disparities, and economic distress in our nation’s most vulnerable communities so they are cleaner, healthier and more prosperous places to live, work, play and learn.

Read a full copy of EPA’s FY2017 Environmental Justice Progress Report, as well as previous reports.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Lessons in Managing Stormwater

by Tom Damm

Schools planning field trips to teach students about stormwater pollution may not have to travel far.  For many, the lesson is right outside their doors.

School buildings and grounds are potentially big conveyors of stormwater as rain washes over their roofs, parking lots and other hard surfaces, picking up pollutants before chugging into storm drains that empty into local waters.

A new, EPA Storm Smart Schools guide can help schools get higher marks in stormwater management.

The EPA Mid-Atlantic Region worked with the city and school district of Newport News, Virginia, to develop options for installing rain-absorbing features on school grounds that can prevent the flooding and water pollution linked to stormwater runoff.

The 36-page guide outlines the multiple benefits of school-based green infrastructure, from helping a community meet Clean Water Act restrictions on stormwater to providing hands-on instruction for students.

The “how to” guide captures the key steps followed by Newport News in selecting one of its schools – Sedgefield Elementary School – as a demonstration site for green infrastructure practices and engaging the community in the effort.  A community meeting at Sedgefield produced design concepts to address the most flood-prone areas of the school property.,

In June 2017, Newport News public schools received $60,000 in Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns (G3) funding to support the Sedgefield design work.

The green practices, like rain gardens, permeable pavement and bioswales, mimic natural conditions and allow stormwater to soak in rather than run off.  On school grounds, they also serve as outdoor learning labs to teach children valuable lessons about environmental protection and conservation.

For homework, be sure your school district is aware of the Storm Smart Schools guide.

 

About the Author: Tom Damm has been with EPA since 2002 and now serves as communications coordinator for the region’s Water Protection Division.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.