Toolbox: Zippy Access to EPA Data on Sites in Your Community

November 18, 2009

Environmental journalists working for local news media outlets may want to check out a handy tool for discovering potential stories in their areas: the EPA ZIP code lookup.

EPA has vast databases about environmental emissions and compliance at local facitilies down to the level of dry cleaners, lunch counters, and elementary schools — not to mention oil refineries and power plants. But finding that information in useful form can be hard unless you know a few tricks.

One useful shortcut is a ZIP code search — online here.  Type in your ZIP code, hit enter, and you will see a list of the facilities in your ZIP area that are in EPA databases. From there, you can pursue what interests you simply by clicking hotlinks.

A few more hints:

  • Try searching ZIP codes adjacent to your own, areas where you know problem facilities are located, or other ZIP codes in your audience area.
  • EPA's ZIP search page actually lets you choose from five different data sets to search. All are highly fruitful — but don't neglect the drab-sounding "Facility Registry System," because it leads to practically all other EPA databases, including some not explicitly listed, with merely a few clicks.