OGD: Reviewing EPA’s interactive datasets


The Environmental Protection Agency has been ahead of several other cabinet level agencies when it comes to putting data online. For several years now some of their main datasets are available with interactive features such as maps and in a downloadable format. Now according to EPA’s open government plan, the agency is planning on releasing several new data driven projects by the end of 2010, some of which are already public.

The first, managed by Horizon Systems is a suite geospatial data that compiles the features of several databases related to watershed management. This project part of which which was initially released in 2006 creates mash-ups that can be used by scientists to analyze surface-water systems using geographic information systems (GIS). For instance, one of the data sets on the website is the stream network, which shows the position of a water source with reference to a nearby drainage network.

Another database EPA released recently provides funding sources for projects that protects water sources, called the Clean Water State Revolving Fund – the largest federal funding program for wastewater infrastructure projects across the nation. Currently, an updated pdf file gives a summary of the grants as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act going to specific towns and cities, along with award date, effective date and construction start date.

Similarly, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which installs, upgrades and replaces infrastructure to ensure a supply of safe drinking water has published its 2010 grant data on its site. Currently, California is getting the largest funding of $126 million, followed by New York with $89 million out of the entire $1.3 billion funds available.

An interesting dataset in the works is the Integrated Climate and Land Use Scenarios, which uses a years’ worth of population and demographics data to anticipate future patterns in housing density. If accurate, this data can tell us a lot about the environment generations will inherit and the consequences for air quality, human health, water quality and ecosystems.

Lastly, the Green Vehicle Guide provides vehicle ratings based on emissions and fuel economy and has been updated to include 2010 models. For instance, users can see that the greenest vehicles in the city are compact four-doors Chevrolet Heritage High Roof that received a 7 out of 10 on an air pollution and greenhouse gas scoreboard.

Although not OGD related, there are two datasets that caught my eye, both these can be personalized for each user. If you’ve ever wondered how clean the air you breathe is, you can now find out just by entering your zip code on a website maintained by the EPA. You can get air quality index, toxic air pollutants, county mortality data and county low birth weight.

Another dataset showcased on this site is the Toxic Release Inventory and includes a map of chemical releases and waste management facilities in any area. For example, the 60646 area, my hometown in Cook County, Chicago has seven facilities and the website lists  their chemical output in pounds, along with a state fact sheet that allows you to compare counties in Illinois.