EPA GIS Professional Support

EPA GIS Professional Support

In July of 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) brought GISi onboard to provide geospatial expertise to four EPA divisions and to manage and maintain the spatial data library at their Region 3 office in Philadelphia, PA. This regional office works with the states of PA, DE, MD, WV, VA, and Washington D.C. to protect environmental resources and regulate the impact of businesses and industry on land, air, and water media. The EPA mandates and enforces environmental policy at the federal level and works with these states, and companies within these states, to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

We work with scientists, project managers, and permitting specialists in the Water Protection, Land and Chemical, Hazardous Site Clean-up, and Environmental Assessment and Innovation Divisions. As part of an onsite support team, we assess the needs of environmental projects from a geospatial perspective and provide technical support in the form of data acquisition, maintenance, and management, as well as analytical expertise needed to tease apart complex spatial problems and bring clarity to environmental issues at both the project and the program level.

The Water Protection Division (WPD) contains programs that focus on numerous water-related topics, including the protection of public water supplies, monitoring and tracking of contaminants that impact our waterways, calculating Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for these contaminants, and regulating the discharge of wastewater from industries and municipalities. GISi works with WPD scientists to query state-submitted data pertaining to the Clean Water Act and identify severely impaired watersheds that should be targeted for the assessment of Best Management Practices for entities such as Confined Animal Feeding Operations. We work with storm water permit managers to define appropriate data structures and attribution requirements for permit data and also synthesize new data layers based on population expansion, allowing these managers to target areas that will require additional permits in the near future. Additionally, as EPA field personnel visit sites to document pollution-control measures employed by facilities, we provide post-processing support by updating all site photos with user-specified metadata, geotagging these photos, and generating KML files that show the path of the photographer as they documented their visit. These photographs are then incorporated into reports and submitted as evidence in legal investigations.

The Land and Chemical Division tracks the storage, utilization, and release of chemicals that are hazardous to humans and the environment. This division also manages permitting procedures associated with the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Pollution Prevention Act, among others. After assessing the needs of LCD permitting specialists, GISi integrated multiple parameters related to potential lead exposure and created a model that predicts the level of risk with regards to potential exposure of young children to harmful lead compounds across the entire region. This has enabled inspectors to be more methodical and efficient as they identify target areas for lead-related inspections. We also played a significant role in assessing the presence and activity of LCD programs that are in place within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, thus allowing program management to better assess the progress that they are making in this critical area and highlight any gaps that may exist in program distribution.

Lastly, the Hazardous Site Cleanup Division manages the clean-up of sites that are listed on the National Priority List, also known as superfund sites. The EPA works to clean up these abandoned hazardous waste sites and compels responsible parties to take appropriate action. Superfund sites are a concern at a national level and are a priority for remediation due to the severity of the contamination and the environmental and health risks that they pose to surrounding communities. Because these sites are of national stature, the EPA must keep leaders of Congress apprised to the presence and status of Superfund sites in their districts. GISi is responsible for creating documents that show the location of these sites and the status of the clean-up for each site. As a result, Congress members are able to stay informed about the major sites undergoing clean-up in their region and understand the impact on the communities that they represent.

As exemplified above, GISi provides numerous forms of support to many branches of the EPA at a regional level. The EPA relies on us for technical and organizational support when it comes to managing the large volume of spatial data that are generated at its Region 3 office and they also rely on us for analytical support at the project level. In addition to providing these types of support, we also offer suggestions for spatial workflows and ideas that highlight how particular tools can be used to augment a project or produce accurate results in an efficient manner. We meet with project managers to fully understand the background and goals of their projects; we then assist them in defining the scope, laying out their primary objectives, and selecting the optimal analytical processes to meet their goals. GISi benefits the EPA, as a whole, by allowing scientists to make better and more educated decisions, by enabling project managers to better coordinate staff assignments, and by expanding the opportunity for spatial insight and creative growth at the program level.

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