Thanks for visiting. This is the bare beginnings of our exploration of the use of Google Maps to display publicly available data. We cut our teeth doing this sort of mapping nearly a decade ago with our Santa Cruz Toxic Release Inventory - the very first of these sorts of maps of the U.S. This initial effort caught the attention of Environmental Defense (then Environmental Defense Fund) and we were subsequently hired to do the first two years of the maps for their Scorecard project. Later we did the the EcoMaps for SVTC.
These were all very difficult jobs to do and included a lot of time-consuming custom programming and/or costly licenses for mapserver software.
Along Comes Google
Google maps has changed this situation. The power of displaying data geographically is now much easier and less expensive to do. Our minds are "boggling" right now at the possibilities. We thought we'd show you this work-in-progress prototype of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) mapping of Humboldt County, CA where we are based. We also intend to show you how we do it. So return often. Thanks!
Using the TRI Maps
The Google Maps interface makes navigating quite straightforward. On the left there is a vertical slider that you can use to zoom in and out. Alternatively, you can use the "+" and "-" buttons for zooming. Above this there are 4 arrows pointing North, South, East and West. Use these to pan.
When you first see the map, it is zoomed out quite a bit so that all the facilities in the county are displayed. When you click on an icon two things happen. First, a window opens with brief information about the facility and a link for "more detailed information." Second, the map centers on that facility. If you want to zoom in and see the location of the facility on a more detailed map, now is the time. The zoom controls will take you right into a detailed view.
We have a second version of this map. Rather than just holding the mouse over an icon, you must click the icon to open the information window. Give it a try and let us know what you think.
Play around. Both versions are quite intuitive.
Satellite Views - See the Facility
You can also see the facility itself. At any point during your navigation you can click on "satellite" or "hybrid." Check them out - you'll be amazed. click on "map" again to return to the street map.
Learning More About Facility & Health Effects
When you move your mouse pointer over an icon, an information window opens up. At the bottom of the window is a link for "more detailed information." Click this and you will find more information about the facility. If you click the links to RTK Net, you'll find even more including the names of the chemicals released and health effect data provided by Environmental Defense.
About the Toxic Release Inventory
Releases of billions of pounds of toxics are reported to the EPA by thousands of facilities each year. Each facility self-reports their releases and their geographical location (longitude and latitude). Now this is where the work comes in. For some reason, even now with the advent of cheap GPS receivers, the locational data reported is often incorrect. Many of the facilities that we mapped here were miles from their actual location until we did the work to locate them accurately. I've always wondered -- if they can't get this right, have they gotten their releases right? EPA also supplies, in some cases, a "preferred latitude" and "preferred longitude" but these are often inaccurate as well.
To learn more about the Toxic Release Inventory, visit RTK Net and EPA's TRI website.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions, so email me and I'll get right back to you. Thanks again for visiting.
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