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EPA Releases Mapping Tool Tracking 'Environmental Justice' Across US

Michal Staniewski/Shutterstock.com

A new mapping tool from the Environmental Protection Agency allows state and local government officials, researchers and advocates and to pinpoint communities facing particular environmental risks.

Almost 75 percent of housing units in downtown Washington, D.C., have potential lead paint exposure, and the area’s in close proximity to a lot of treatment storage and disposal facilities.

These are only a few of the many pieces of information the EPA has made available in its new high-resolution application called the environmental justice mapping and screening tool, or EJSCREEN.

The tool is the result of five years of work. Users can click on any area in the country and immediately receive a goldmine of data related to environmental factors and demographics.

“We wanted to create one platform that we could really focus our efforts on developing and enhancing from year to year in order to make it the best platform possible or available for agency purposes,” said Matthew Tejada, director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice, in an interview with Nextgov.

The tool is the final piece of Plan EJ 2014, which is EPA’s environmental justice strategic plan, according to Tejada.

EJSCREEN is open to the public. It's meant to help a wide array of users identify geographic areas with a high percentage of low-income inhabitants and heightened environmental challenges, according to its website.

"Other agencies have been wanting to use this tool ever since we first started talking about it outside of EPA,” Tejada said.

Although EPA has developed similar mapping tools in the past, EJSCREEN is the first one that includes information for the entire country, according to its website.

EPA will continue to update EJSCREEN every year, Tejada said.

The agency completed a preliminary version of EJSCREEN in 2012. Following a peer review last year, the development team added new data and made adjustments to the interface before its official release last week.

The agency has already started to use the information in the tool for its own programs, such as developing retrospective reports of its work and improving geographically-based initiatives, according to its website.

All of the tool’s information was derived from publicly available data, according to Tejada.

(Image via Michal Staniewski/ Shutterstock.com)

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