Friday, January 20, 2017

EPA Critical Violations (Last 3 Years)

This is part of my #1YearOfViz series! Check out the archive here:

I know I promised everyone a Casey Neistat viz this week but I'm hoping to give that one a little more love and do some fancy-dancy things with it.... so it's getting postponed a while!
Instead I'm bringing you another things near and dear to my heart... EPA violations! I was thinking about pollution and I decided to swing by the EPA website to see if they had information worth scrapping or looking at.

That's when I saw it... not only did they have EVERY SINGLE BIT OF DATA IMAGINABLE for every facility that reports to the EPA... they had them all ALREADY GEOCODED.

ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW EPA!? I LOVE YOU! (But not as much as cats or pizza... )

So I tried to export all 500,000+ records but they have some limits on their queries. Another amazing thing is that if you try a query that returns over their query limit they have SUGGESTED FILTERS that pop up on the side for ways to filter the data down to actually pull results! I decided to only pull "Significant Violations" for this particular viz. Seriously, whoever designed their search system... I owe you SO many donuts! I'm still looking for the pure raw data to pull down for a more in-depth dive (I'm guessing it's located on but I haven't gone searching for it really hard yet) into all this but I decided in the meantime to pull down all the locations nationwide which have had a "critical problem".

I really didn't want any of my family to wake up to
 be the Toxic Avenger!
The first thing I noticed was that there were not many "sanctions" really being delved out. I came across this as I was looking at this list of court cases brought by the EPA against companies/individuals. For those of you in WV you obviously heard about the American Industries scandal as chemicals were leaked into water intakes for drinking water around the state. My own family was involved in this so it's pretty fresh in my mind. Did you know that the President of Freedom Industries only got a few months in prison for that? Does that seem like a lot to you? Another person I read about dumped sewage into a much smaller river and ended up getting 3 years of prison time. I was hoping to scrape all the prison terms and such but it's not formatted equally enough for me to get it at this time. Again, I hope that I'll be able to get some of this down the road.

Here's the data on states and sanctioning vs inspections, click on either the state or the number of quarters of non-compliance (or both) to reshape the data to show average inspections, EPA actions, and number of records:

Me when I find out how many places DON'T
get punished for consistent EPA violations. =/
Now keep in mind these are ONLY facilities which have a "Significant Violation"... still the average number of EPA actions even for places with 11 quarters of non-compliance (we can assume that 12 quarters could possibly be an error... or the frightening truth). Eleven quarters means that at SOME POINT they were compliant in the last 3 years... of places with 9-11 quarters of non-compliance (2-2.75 years) this comprises 22.21% of all significant violation records. Of those with 9-11 quarters of non-compliance the average "Formal Action Count" is 1.025 out of an average of 3.057 inspections.

This last dashboard allows you to zoom in on the area you (or your loved-ones) might live to look around at facilities near them that have had critical EPA violations and read more in-depth about the facilities themselves. You can search by facility name, state, and city. Clicking on the dot will load up the EPA page in a new window and you can read up for yourself! Edit: I tried to get the viz to load the page INSIDE the dashboard but both http and https versions weren't working once I actually saved to Tableau Public so I figured this was the best compromise since I still wanted the individual facilities to be viewable.

I grew up in a place known as the Chemical Valley (highlighted in this graphic I exported from Tableau below) so I care about the existence of the EPA, they keep the people safe from corporate interests in a very real way. Prior to crackdowns in EPA regulation there were places close to where I grew up that had population cancer rates OVER 85%... thanks to the EPA those rates are significantly lower today. Just something to think about when people talk about doing away with the EPA in favor of "self regulation" (ie no regulation). =/ As always hit me up on twitter @wjking0 and I hope to create a little more in-depth dive with this data a little later on.

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