New Tools in Environmental Data Analysis

By Jessie Johnson

There is a plethora of sources for environmental data, but it can often lead to a plethora of questions. How do you know where to go for the data? How can you visualize and interpret the data? The website I work on, Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO), has been a resource to help answer these questions since it was launched in 2002. ECHO provides users the ability to search facilities that are in non-compliance with environmental laws and helps make EPA enforcement efforts and regulated entities’ actions more transparent for the public. Comments from ECHO users allow us to continue to improve your access to environmental data.

Our newest update is the new Facility Search Results page called “map filter” that will be launched this fall after testing and review is completed. The EPA ECHO team has worked to create a more user friendly and seamless search that models the new page off of commonly-used search engines. We will be offering easy-to-use filters, access to on-page media-specific search criteria, and customized mapping layer.

So what does all of that mean? With the new results page you will be able to complete a search while looking directly at the map meaning you can see that changes happening in your search occur as you make them, allowing you to adjust your search along the way. The layers include tribal boundaries, hospitals, schools, and other demographic maps to help finish out the story of your map during your search. Our hope is that these changes will lead to a better understanding of enforcement data and more analysis of existing data.

As a geographic information system analyst, I am excited about this tool because I rely heavily on maps and visual aids, and I have found it very helpful to see my search occur on the screen in front of me. I think environmental analysis and decisions are based on many levels of information and not solely based on one facility or one set of data.  These new additions will hopefully help the information stand out more, make it easier to understand and help deliver a more efficient product to our users.

Look out for trainings—you can subscribe to our listserv for updates—that will be coming along with the new search tool in late fall to help everyone make this transition seamless and hopefully help generate as much excitement as we have here for the new ECHO map filtering tool.

Figure 2. Preview of a search result and facility summary on the new ECHO Map Filter search page

About the author: Jessie Johnson is the training and outreach coordinator for the Integrated Targeting and Access Branch in Office of Compliance. She also specializes in GIS technology and is working on mapping and analytical access for the public.

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.

Modernizing Access to Environmental Data

Do you use our Enforcement and Compliance History Online database?

If you do, then you may already know about our yearlong modernization effort to make it one of the most robust government data tools in the world. If you don’t, then now is a good time to try it out. Recognized by President Obama as an exemplary federal agency data tool, ECHO houses environmental compliance information on more than 800,000 facilities nationwide. More than 2 million visitors checked it out last year.

Today I’m excited to report that we’ve just added air pollution data from our various reporting programs, known as the Air Pollutant Report. When you run a facility search, ECHO now lets you view and compare air data from our National Emissions Inventory, Toxic Release Inventory, Greenhouse Gas Reporting Tool and Acid Rain Program—along with facility compliance information—on a single, easy-to-use web page. Previously, in order to see the air pollution emissions for a given facility, you would have to search for it on four different websites and combine the data yourself. Now all of that information is presented on a single facility specific report.

NewScreenShotThis upgrade is a big boost for public transparency giving citizens, industry and government agencies an easy way to spot problems so they can play an active role in environmental protection. The Air Pollutant Report is currently in “beta” phase, and so we need your feedback on the design and contents of the tool. Adding air pollution data to ECHO is just one of many important upgrades we’ve made this year. Here are some of the others:

  • Last month, we launched a new dashboard that allows users to search for information on facility compliance with pesticide regulations.
  • In April, we launched a Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) dashboard, a user-friendly tool that presents data about violations and the compliance status of public water systems. Popular Clean Water Act data sets were reposted to ECHO last summer, making it easier to find data about water violations and inspections.
  • A new mapping feature displaying the compliance status of EPA-regulated facilities lets users create customized maps using current data.
  • ECHO now allows users to search which facilities have reported Risk Management Plans required under the Clean Air Act.
  • In the spirit of the White House’s Digital Government Strategy, ECHO’s new technology also provides web services, widgets and other features allowing web developers to incorporate data and reports into their own websites.

In addition to all of these improvements, data in ECHO is now refreshed on a weekly basis, giving you more up to date information, often only a matter of days after we receive it from the states.

We’ve made remarkable strides in our effort to make environmental data accessible and easy to use. With greater access to information, you can be better informed about what’s happening in your community, which supports engagement and participation at every level of government.

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.