Week of September 25, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick

Pictures Worth a Thousand Words --
and, Possibly, Multi-Millions of Dollars

Bad environmental information can produce site-related decisions that quickly descend into Dante's Inferno. That's where EnviroMapper (www.epa.gov/enviro/html/em/) figures into the equation.

A free online offering from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the site won't instantly turn you into a master of the environmental universe. But EnviroMapper's detail-rich maps offer substantial assistance for site-related environmental concerns (at least for U.S. sites). Those maps are an effective online tool for spotting, quickly and at a glance, the red-flag environmental issues that must be resolved.

EnviroMapper maps a broad range of environmental data. The environmental information that can be plotted spans drinking water, toxic and air releases, hazardous waste, water discharge permits, and Superfund sites. And the site also links to text reports that provide more detailed information.

What this site is plotting, of course, is EPA information - which, in matters environmental, is the info that really, really counts.

Test Drive:
There Goes the Neighborhood

Users can begin creating maps by clicking on one of the sample maps displayed on the right-hand side of the site's home page. From there, you can narrow your search parameters by county, city, watershed sub-region, catalogue unit, ZIP code or EPA region. Once you've generated your map, you can click on any point to zoom in.

We chose the ZIP code option for our test drive, mapping our own postal code at home. It's nice, the neighborhood we live in - trees, a lake, a haven of relative peace and quiet. Or so we thought.

We used EnviroMapper to plot a two-mile (3.21-km.) radius from home, sweet home. What the map displayed were specific locations for more than 20 hazardous waste generators, plus an operation that handles toxic chemicals.

This wasn't exactly reassuring.

Neither, however, was it altogether unexpected, as several business parks lie within that two-mile radius. And there was some good news in the map: Our house wasn't sitting near a Superfund site. If it had been, we sagely surmised, property values might be adversely affected (which is to say, they would plummet off the edge of the Earth).

EnviroMapper also delivers its wealth of detailed information with inordinate speed and smoothness. Deservedly, the site has won a number of honors, including the 1999 Special Achievement in Geographic Information Systems Award presented by Environmental Systems Research Institute (www.esri.com).

Brownfield Mapping Also Online

EnviroMapper can also be a helpful tool for other activities.

Users, for example, can use the site to map and display tax incentive zones for brownfield redevelopment. In addition, EnviroMapper can be used "to view and query EPA-regulated facility information stored in the Envirofacts Warehouse," the site explains.

Also online is environmental information for the U.S. metros that are participating in the EPA's Environmental Monitoring for Public Access and Community Tracking project.

Insert Your Own Mapping Info

One final feature deserves mention here, and it looks to be a pretty nifty one (though time constraints precluded our trying it).

EnviroMapper's OpenLink feature allows any other Web site to set up a hyperlink to EnviroMapper. Users can then insert their own information into EnviroMapper's map.

Here's how the site describes OpenLink's functionality: "A map image can be generated dynamically and displayed in your Web page, along with other text and images that you have created. All you have to do is to insert a simple HTML code into your Web page [and] the image can be made interactive by hyperlinking it with the code."

All and all, this is a user-friendly site with an informational storehouse that runs very deep. And it's a site that provides the kind of pictures that can be worth multiple millions of dollars.



©2000 Conway Data, Inc. All rights reserved. Data is from many sources and is not warranted to be accurate or current.