NJDEP and EPA Join Efforts to Increase Public Access to Environmental Information
(02/ 114) TRENTON - With the support of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is enhancing the public's access to high-quality environmental information via the Internet. EPA awarded DEP a total of $1.3 million to help New Jersey improve its ability exchange environmental data nationally and establish web-based reporting programs for local water quality, beach monitoring, air emissions and hazardous waste activities.
"These federal funds help New Jersey honor the public's right-to-know about local environmental information that impacts their daily lives," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "EPA and DEP have a shared interest in developing an informed public and giving New Jersey's residents the information they need to help in protecting their environment. I want to thank EPA for its support as we work together to reach that goal."
The grant funds are part of EPA's National Environmental Exchange Network program, which works to facilitate the flow of information from states to the EPA and among all parties that participate in the national network.
"The EPA grant is helping the state build an information exchange network that provides the public meaningful, real-time access to environmental data," said EPA Regional Administrator Jane M. Kenny. "Using the Internet, citizens will be able to get a complete picture of environmental conditions where they live and work."
As part of the network and by means of the latest Internet and data exchange technologies, information flows from an originating source - such as a facility - to a state agency and then to the EPA. In addition to submitting reports, the portal is used by the regulated community to obtain various permits over the Internet - expediting the application process.
"The department, working in partnership with EPA, played a major role in developing this effective networking format so we can better share environmental data between all levels of government and ultimately the public," added Commissioner Campbell.
Approximately $318,000 of the $1.3 million in grant funding is being used to purchase equipment and the software needed to build New Jersey's network Internet node, which will facilitate new data flows.
Additional initiatives established as a result of the EPA funding include:
Beach Water Quality Reporting ($525,000): DEP is working with a private organization called "Earth 911" to facilitate the flow of beach monitoring data from county health agencies to the state and EPA. DEP currently works with Earth 911 to provide information to the public on the location of monitoring stations and beach access points. DEP is linked to Earth 911's national website from its njbeaches.org webpage.
Safe Drinking Water Sampling Results Reporting ($265,000): As part of this initiative, the department is working with New Hampshire and four other states to develop a mechanism to improve data flow from laboratories to state data systems and then to the EPA's Safe Drinking Water database.
Air Emissions and Hazardous Waste Data Flows ($150,000): DEP is working with Mississippi, New Mexico and two other states to improve the flow of data from our integrated Environmental Management System (NJEMS) to EPA' s air and hazardous waste databases. Each state involved now owns and uses the environmental data management system built by New Jersey and its contractor.
DEP competed with other state environmental and health agencies, as well as local governments and tribes to obtain grant money through EPA's networking program. New Jersey received the largest sum of money nationally.