EPA seeks crowdsourcing with early release of toxics report data

Agency releases preliminary data just weeks after filing deadline

The Environmental Protection Agency has released its 2009 data on toxic pollution early to take advantage of crowdsourcing to improve and refine the information.

Crowdsourcing involves releasing information to a broad audience and letting it provide ideas based on it. In this case, the EPA hopes the public will analyze the data in the preliminary Toxics Release Inventory dataset that includes more than 80 percent of the data expected to be reported for 2009.

“EPA encourages the public to review and analyze the data while EPA conducts its own analysis, which will be published later this year,” the agency said in a press release. “EPA will continue to process paper submissions, late submissions, and to resolve issues with the electronic submissions. The agency will update the dataset in August and again in September so citizens will have complete access to the information.”

The data, which contains environmental release and transfer data on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories reported to EPA by more than 21,000 industrial and other facilities, is the earliest publication of the data. The agency previously kept the data for about six months to check and analyze it before posting. But last year EPA issued preliminary data in mid-August followed by a national study in December, wrote Aliya Sternstein in an article for NextGov.

The data is available directly from EPA's Web site, and through other tools such as my Right to Know, an application for mobile devices, and TRI Chemical Hazard Information Profiles, a searchable database with information from multiple sources.

Both applications were released in April. At the same time, the EPA released the second version of its TRI-Made Easy Web application for electronic reporting by facilities. At the time of the announcement, the EPA said it expected 95 percent of the reporting facilities to use TRI-MEweb to submit their reports. Other tools available to manage the data include TRI Explorer and Envirofacts.

EPA developed the TRI database in 1986. The data is used for a variety of purposes, including allocating environmental resources, determining environmental liabilities and indicating environmental performance of reporting facilities.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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