ECHO and ECHO Notify: Do you know what data is out there?
Posted: October 12th, 2022Authors: Rawan E.
With different industries continuing to either expand their current facilities or build new facilities, public awareness and scrutiny has increased dramatically over the past few years. The public has started looking into different factors associated with facilities – including a facility’s location (and its associated Environmental Justice Index) and its enforcement and compliance history. As data becomes more publicly available, facilities will want to ensure that the data is as correct as possible to ensure the public is getting the most accurate image of the site in question. It also is a good basis of review to understand what kind of data is out there, and how can be used in different manners.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) publishes enforcement and compliance history for regulated facilities across the nation at their Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) webpage. ECHO provides permit, inspection, violation of environmental regulations, and enforcement action information for over one million EPA-regulated facilities. ECHO is available for public use, and users can register for email notifications for changes to the ECHO data via ECHO Notify. This article will provide information on how to use the ECHO webpage, what data is publicly available, how to sign up for ECHO notify, and guidance on updating any data related to your facility that may be inaccurate in the ECHO webpage. The U.S. EPA recently issued a press release announcing the updates associated with the Environmental Justice metrics and Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Dashboard for ECHO that are discussed below.
ECHO Search Tool
The ECHO database provides three-year compliance data and five-year inspection and enforcement history associated with Clean Air Act (CAA) stationary sources, Clean Water Act (CWA) permitted dischargers, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste handlers, and Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) public water systems. There are seven tabs to choose from on the ECHO website homepage. To search for data associated with a location or facility, the user can select either “Quick Search” or “Search Options.” The user can input a general location or facility specific information in “Quick Search,” and a more specialized search can be conducted using “Search Options.” The user has the option to specify media programs, geographic locations, community information, facility characteristics, enforcement and compliance data, environmental conditions, and pollutant information in “Search Options.” Upon conducting the search, an interactive map and data table are provided that summarize all the different applicable facilities associated with the search conducted. The user can add a layer summarizing Environmental Justice (EJ) information associated with a facility once it has been selected from the interactive map. The user can select “Add EJ Summary Map” at the top of the map to enable the EJSCREEN layer. The EJSCREEN option provides information associated with EJ indexes including, but not limited to, cancer risk, respiratory indexes, and Particulate Matter2.5 and ozone exposure information for the selected facility. This will allow the user to assess the sensitivity of the area being reviewed and can provide the user with EJ resources to help better navigate that arena.
ECHO Detailed Facility Report
To obtain a Detailed Facility Report from the map that provides details on the enforcement and compliance history of a facility, the user can select the chosen facility from the Facility Search Results page. The Detailed Facility Report allows the user to choose the media of interest (Air, Water, Hazardous Waste, or Drinking Water) as well as the Compliance History Timeframe (Monthly vs Quarterly). A summary of the Enforcement and Compliance History of the facility is provided in the report. The user also has the option to select other regulatory reports by selecting one of the related reports or other regulatory reports options on that page. The page also provides details associated with the facility characteristics and information, the compliance monitoring history and summary data, formal/informal enforcement actions, environmental conditions, toxic release inventory (TRI) data, and EJSCREEN EJ Indexes for the facility.
Upon reviewing the detailed summary report, the user can choose to report an error if needed. The user can report two types of errors. Data errors are associated with yellow error reporting icons next to applicable rows, and the icon must be selected to report a suspected data error. If the error is not associated with a line item with a yellow reporting icon, then a general error may be reported. To report an error, the user must navigate to the top right-hand corner of the Detailed Facility Report and select the “Report Data Error” button. Then, the user can either select a yellow reporting icon from the report or click the “Report General Error” button. Both options require the user to submit their personal contact information prior to providing their comment on the error. Once the error has been submitted, it will be entered into the U.S. EPA’s Integrated Error Correction Process and the appropriate Regional, State, or Local Steward will review the comment and make the appropriate changes. Errors can similarly be reported in all applicable charts and tabs from the ECHO database.
The user can sign up for ECHO Notify in the “Search Options” tool to receive email notifications of changes to enforcement and compliance data in ECHO tailored to an area of interest or for specific facilities. To access ECHO Notify, a login.gov account must be created by navigating to the top login link on the ECHO homepage. Once an account has been created, the ECHO Notify option can be selected in the “Search Options” tool, and the user can select the specific items they would like to receive notifications on, selecting specific locations/facilities, media, and types of enforcement/compliance actions. The bottom of the subscription page includes descriptions of the programs and terms being selected in this process. The email the user receives will include the time-period associated with the activities being reported, a high-level summary of the requested information, as well as links to receive more detailed information of the violations/enforcement actions being provided.
Trends (including the Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Dashboard updates)
The ECHO webpage also provides the option to “Analyze Trends” from the home page to review visualizations and performance trend tools including U.S. EPA/State Comparative Maps, a Data Visualization Gallery, and a Water Pollution Loading Tool. These three tools are briefly described in this paragraph, but there are additional tools under that section to explore compliance and enforcement data. The Comparative Maps tool allows the user to filter data by media, type of facility, and type of information requested (e.g., type of inspection/violation/penalties etc.). Once the user has filtered the data, they can select the state of interest. Clicking on the state provides a short summary of all activities in the state, and a state specific ECHO Dashboard or a National ECHO Dashboard can be selected to view the summary of trends for each criterion over time. The Data Visualization Gallery provides compliance-related dashboards and maps such as the Benzene Fenceline Monitoring Dashboard, which is a tool that reports benzene concentrations monitored by petroleum refineries since 2015. Users are able to view the data in maps and utilize the information for more detailed analyses of the facilities. The Water Pollution Loading Tool calculates and reports facility pollutant discharges by year or by monitoring period.
U.S. EPA Cases
The ECHO Homepage also allows users to find specific federal administrative and judicial enforcement actions by either searching by U.S. EPA case name or case number. The ECHO website also provides a News tab and allows the user to sign up for news notifications including updates to tools on the website, webinars, and enforcement news and actions set by the U.S. EPA.
With all enforcement, compliance, and EJ data available for public viewing, facilities are subject to more questions and commentary from the public. Understanding what data is out there and ensuring its accuracy can inform decisions facilities make moving forward and shape communication with the public. ALL4 is happy to provide guidance on the data and can help our clients make optimal decisions about their facility and industry growth and advise on mitigation strategies for any scrutiny that may arise from the publicly available data. For any questions or guidance on this matter, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.