Hazardous Waste Cleanup Projects in Washington State

For this assignment, you will be investigating hazardous waste cleanup projects and contaminant releases in your local community and in Washington State more broadly. Your final submission should provide detailed answers to questions 1-12.

To begin, please visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Cleanups in My Community website: https://www.epa.gov/cleanups/cleanups-my-community (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and click on Washington State using the interactive mapping function at the bottom of the page.
Next, use the “Define Your Community” feature in the light grey box in the upper right hand corner of the screen to narrow your search. Using the drop-down menu that says “State/Territory,” select the “Street Address” option. Enter your address, and then use the drop down menu for “Radius (mi)” to select a 15 mile radius.
Make sure you also click on the “Legend” option in that same light grey box so that you will be able to interpret the symbols on your map.

Take a look at the results of your search. What types of cleanups fall within a 15 mile radius of your house? List all types you see. (Hint: Use the legend to compare the symbols you find within that radius to determine cleanup type. You may need to zoom in to see all cleanups as there may be several right next to each other).

Select three cleanups from that 15 mile radius around your house and describe each one (you may extend the radius if need be). What is the story of this cleanup? What happened here? In other words, why is this place on the Cleanups in My Community map? (Hint: In order to find information, begin by clicking on the symbol you want to investigate, and then click on the links that come up. Determining the story behind the cleanup may take a bit of searching. Explore the webpages that come up and use Google to do background research on any laws, regulations or facilities that you don’t recognize). Note: If there are less than three cleanups within a 15 mile radius around your house, you can supplement by searching other locations where you spend time regularly. Please describe three cleanups in your answer, using your own words to detail what happened at this site.

Returning to light grey box again, click on the “Layers” feature and select the “Impaired Waterways” option. You may need to zoom in to be able to see this layer on your map.

What are the most common causes of impairment for the waterways surrounding your house? (Hint: In order to determine this, click on each of the red lines and red triangles you see on your map, then click on the “Impaired Waters ID” and then “Causes of Impairment.”)

Now visit another EPA website called “How’s My Waterway?” (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. and select “Choose a Location” to enter your zip code and generate a list of waterways in your area, along with their relative status. Click on the “Show Map” option.

4. Compare your How’s My Waterway map with your Cleanups in my Community map. What differences and/or similarities do you see between the two (i.e. does one map list impaired waterways that the other one does not)?

5. Return to the “list” option in How’s My Waterway again. How many waterways in your area are listed as “polluted”? How many are listed as “unpolluted”? How many are listed as “condition unknown?

Now return to your Cleanups In My Community map and in the light grey box to the right of the screen, select the “Toxic Release Inventory System” option from the “Layers” section. You may need to zoom in or out in order to see this layer on your map.

6. What types of toxic releases have occurred in your area? What chemicals have been released? What types of companies are responsible for these releases? Give examples from at least three TRI Reports (Hint: Click on the purple and white triangle symbols and then click on the TRI NAME link to access the TRI Report. Review the contaminant release information by clicking on the tabs for “Facility Information,” “Chemicals,” “Releases,” and so on). NOTE: If this feature is on the fritz, you can search the Toxic Release Inventory directly here. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. It seems to work best on this website to search by city.

Returning to light grey box again, select the “Air Non Attainment” option from the “Layers” section. You may need to zoom out to be able to see this layer on your map.

7. How many “Air Non Attainment” areas do you see in the Puget Sound region? Where are they located? What pollutant is the main concern in these areas? What are the health risks associated with this specific pollutant? (Hint: In order to determine what pollutant is of primary concern in these areas, click on the blue area. You may need to do some searching on Google to determine and describe associated health risks).

Zoom out until you are looking at the entire state of Washington and click on a variety of cleanup sites.

8. In reviewing the state wide map, what did you find interesting and/or surprising? What stood out to you? What questions do you still have? Your answer should be at least one paragraph. (Hint: This answer is an opportunity for broader reflection about cleanup in Washington State. For example: What was it like to look at this map? What specific cleanups did you find interesting or curious? What was unclear or confusing?).

At the top of the Cleanups in My Community page, click on the “About the Data” link and read the description for “Background” and “Current Scope of Sites Included.” Be sure to click on the “Legal Notices” link within the Background section and read about the Legal Notices and Disclaimers they provide.

9. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, what are some uncertainties and/or limitations to the data in this cleanup map? What information is included in the map? What information is not included?

10. In the background section of Cleanups in My Community, the EPA states that this map “can help people understand what is happening in their community, what has happened, and, with the contextual information provided, what could happen if certain events take place.” Having explored this map, do you feel adequately informed about potential hazards and associated cleanup activities in your community? Why or why not?

Finally, visit the EPA’s Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) website and watch the video (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. describing the program.

11. The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986 was designed to help the public prepare for contamination-related disasters and to protect themselves and their families from exposure. Do you find the Cleanups in My Community to be a useful tool in this regard? Would you be able to use this website to protect yourself and/or your family from exposure? If so, how?

12. Has reviewing this map and its contents changed the way you think about where you live? Why or why not? Your answer should be at least one paragraph.