By Matthew Tejada
One of the best parts about working for environmental justice at EPA is that we constantly have the opportunity to engage with people from all walks of life across the United States. We hear from county commissioners, road builders, city planners, elected officials, professors, tribal leaders, and of course we hear from community members and community based organizations on a whole host of issues impacting their health, their environment and their quality of life. Over the years, it has been heartening to hear what communities have learned, and could achieve, when they used EJSCREEN.
EJSCREEN was released to the public to provide a common starting point for engagement and mutual understanding when discussing environmental justice issues. It provides people with a tool to consider impacts, to ask better questions, and to bring a deeper level of transparency to important data. EJSCREEN’s use has continually grown since it was publicly released. In two years, it has been used over 200,000 times, and we have constantly worked to make sure that the tool evolves to meet the needs of its ever-expanding user base.
I am excited to announce that EJSCREEN has some important new enhancements.
- We improved our water indicator to show water bodies potentially impacted by toxicity and water pollution.
- At the request of many of our local government and planning users, we have added municipal level boundaries.
- We have included new and improved layers on schools and public housing.
And we have of course updated all of the tool’s environmental and demographic indicators with the most recently available data.
Over the past year, we have focused on expanding the ways we engage with our users. We completed an in-depth user survey to gain greater insight for improving EJSCREEN in the future. We are also generating case studies so users can learn how others use the tool in their work.
The range of uses is impressive. In New Jersey, transportation agencies are using EJSCREEN to inform initial planning for new road projects. A North Carolina-based community group used EJSCREEN to identify air-quality concerns and potential environmental threats to adjacent neighborhoods. And EJSCREEN helped Coeur D’Alene, Idaho identify vulnerable areas for greater outreach and consideration. These examples point to why environmental justice is important and how making good data transparent puts environmental justice into action.
We hope that you will test out EJSCREEN to see how it can serve your needs and provide us feedback on how we can continue to improve it. You can also subscribe to the Environmental Justice ListServ so that you can receive updates on our upcoming EJSCREEN activities.
We look forward to hearing from you – and in the meantime, we hope you find the new version of EJSCREEN as useful as we do!
About the Author: Matthew Tejada is the Director of EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice.