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RE: What about EPA's info?

EPA has steadily progressed in getting individual numerical databases put up on the Internet. With text documents there has not been as much progress; too many of them still exist only on paper, and those that are put up are almost always in the horrible, unsearchable Adobe Acrobat format.

Now, do numerical databases help? Not with all environmental problems. If you take the main division of environmental problems as being between ecological, toxics-related, and global atmospheric ones, then the current numeric databases help mostly with the toxics-related area. Global atmospheric problems, like global warming or stratospheric ozone depletion, require global numbers as well as estimates of releases from local sources; EPA is steadily developing databases in this area, but they haven't progressed as far as the toxics-related ones. Ecological problems are generally poorly described by EPA's data, although the Surf Your Watershed tool off the main EPA site makes a good attempt at water quality issues. EPA's many mapping projects are useful for showing toxic release sources as dots on a map, but I haven't seen any really good ones for ecological problems yet, that show critical habitat areas and the like.

Even when relevant databases are available, EPA's individual databases are often startlingly bad at describing the problem that they are supposed to be concerned with. My guess would be that very few people have ever been able to extract useful data from EPA's spottily maintained and poorly designed Permit Compliance System (PCS) database of water pollution permits, for example. But better data collection is an area mired in political conflict and is not really a library issue.

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