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Creation of web-based database for inactive hazardous waste sites in New York State
One of the challenges facing the environmental engineering community in the United States is the presence of sites contaminated with hazardous chemicals. These sites pose a potential threat to public health and the environment. They also impede the development of the surrounding community. The federal government addresses these sites mainly through its Superfund program. The state governments initiated their own State Superfund, Voluntary Cleanup and Brownfields Restoration programs to remediate sites that were not addressed under the federal programs. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation conducts the State Superfund program based on the regulation, 6NYCRR, Chapter 4, subchapter B, part 375. This part deals with inactive hazardous waste disposal sites and is effective since May 1992. While these state run programs have been in existence for nearly ten years, little information regarding the outcome of these programs is readily available. There is a need for an objective, easily accessible source of information on sites remediated under these state programs. Improved accessibility to these data would be a useful resource for many stakeholders including citizens, property owners, and potentially responsible parties. It would enhance technology transfer by enabling remediation engineers to draw on the experience of remediated sites for application at future sites. It also can be used as research tool to study the influence of site characteristics on remediation goals. To meet this need, research was conducted to assess the feasibility of creating a environmental remediation database that would be user-friendly, universally available, and quipped with GIS mapping features plus provisions to perform wide-ranging queries, and statistically analyze data. Applications have been built to address these needs. Examples include the EPA's online database for federal superfund hazardous waste sites and EnviroMapper, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) HazDat database, the Oregon State Department of Environmental Quality's (OSDEQ) Environmental Cleanup Site Information Database, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (NYSDEC) Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Database (IHWDSD) and Environmental Navigator. However, only NYSDEC's IHWDSD is concerned with sites in New York State that were or are being remediated under the State's remediation programs. Also, these applications primarily act as an online source of information on individual inactive hazardous waste sites, particularly federal and state superfund sites. They have limited query options and provide little support for any kind of comparative analysis. The first hypothesis of this work is that the data needs of the envisioned information network is available and can be easily accessed. The second hypothesis states that the proposed application can be utilized to explain or understand the selected remedy at a site based on related factors such as site setting, soil type, and program of remediation. The objectives identified to test these hypotheses were t<;> develop a list of desired information regarding a site and its remediation, verify the availability of the required data for Superfund sites, and to build a prototype web-based database for analyzing the data. The list of desired data were developed based on a review of the literature, and inputs from faculties in the Departments of Environmental Engineering, Geography, and Law, at the University at Buffalo, and remediation engineers. The relationships between the data requirements were defined for use in constructing the database in an EntityÂ-Relationship diagram. Public documents available at the NYSDEC offices under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) were selected as the source of information on sites remediated under the State remediation programs. Data were obtained primarily by reviewing the Record of Decision, a comprehensive public document published by the DEC for all State Superfund sites. Other documents were reviewed based on availability. Data from thirty Superfund sites in Region 9 of New York State were collected. The review was restricted to sites contaminated with lead, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or trichloroethylene (TCE). By and large, the data needs were met, but some of the data were difficult to obtain for a few sites. The cooperation of personnel at NYSDEC Region 9 Office facilitated easy access to the relevant documents. A prototype of the envisioned information network, named Environmental Remediation and Restoration Information Network (ERRIN), was developed. ERRIN is a web-based database capable of executing various queries. It presents raw data in a tabular form without any interpretation or bias. It is built as a 3-tier architecture. The data are stored in an Oracle database. The Apache/Tomcat web server, a product of the Apache Software Foundation, provides the Internet database connectivity. As of January 2002, data collected from the 30 superfund sites in NYSDEC Region 9 constitute the, database. The application can be accessed at http://allison.eng.buffalo.edu/errin. A few sample queries were executed to test the second hypothesis. The queries illustrated the potential of ERRIN, but the second hypothesis could not be proved convincingly. More data coupled with additional features could prove successful.