There is a wealth of information available online that can tell you about the environmental burdens on your neighborhood. Below, we list a few websites that have information for the entire nation or the state of Georgia.
This is only a sampling of the publicly and privately developed sites out there. In addition, there may be internet resources dedicated to documenting the environmental condition of your region, city, or neighborhood, so you should treat this list as a starting point.
When the federal government needs to provide notice of a decision, permit application, or opportunity for public comment, the agency involved will publish a notice in the Federal Register.
You can imagine that the Federal Register is like the government’s newspaper, describing all the actions the government is taking on any given day. You can search the Federal Register online and submit comments on proposals. You can also sign up for a daily email with a list of all the notices published in the Federal Register.
EPA’s EJScreen tool is an online mapping tool that allows you to select a specific site or draw a boundary around an area. Itwill then provide information about the demographics and potential environmental hazards of that area.
How to Use EJScreen
From the EJScreen homepage, click the link under “Launch the EJScreen Tool.” This will bring up a map. Zoom and drag the map to the location you are interested in (similar to using Google Maps).
The first tab on the tools list, “maps,” allows you to compare various categories to the state as a whole or the United States. You can use this tool to compare environmental justice indexes, pollution and sources, health disparities, and socioeconomic indicators. For example, you can use the map to compare levels of lead paint. Orange and red areas indicate high levels of the category you are measuring, as compared to the rest of the state or the United States.
The third tab on the tools list, “reports,” will bring up a box where you can either choose to drop a pin on a specific location, draw a site boundary, or enter locations through text or census block group IDs.
When you select an area, you will have several options. Clicking “Explore Reports” will show a set of environmental, demographic, and environmental justice information, which you can display on the state, regional, and national level. These reports are shown as percentiles and displayed as a graph.
Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST)
In November 2022, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) released a Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (version 1.0). This tool uses census tract data to identify communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened.
The tool provides information on the community based on eight categories of disadvantaged status, including the following:
Climate change impacts
Affordable and sustainable housing
Clean water infrastructure
The tool ranks each census tract using percentiles that show how much burden each tract experiences relative to all other tracts, for each criterion. In January 2023, President Biden instructed executive departments and agencies to utilize the tool to identify geographically defined communities for programs under the Justice40 Initiative and for programs where statutes direct resources to “disadvantaged communities.”
How to use CEJST
On the CEJST website, type in your city. It will bring up the area divided by census tracts of no more than 4,000 people. Areas that are shaded are identified as disadvantaged.
Click on a census tract, either shaded or unshaded, and you will be shown the county, state, and population of the census tract.
On the census tract, the tool will indicate whether the tract is categorized as disadvantaged or not and will indicate in which categories the tract is disadvantaged. The categories with blue dots next to it indicate areas where the tract is above the national thresholds and identifies its ranking.
EPA’s EnviroAtlas, is a mapping tool that displays different kinds of information in layers. EnviroAtlas provides many more types of information than EJScreen, and can show demographic information such as employment, housing, and walkability alongside map overlays of watershed areas, wetlands and lowlands, endangered species, and land uses.
How to use EnviroAtlas
EnviroAtlas is a little easier to use than EJSCREEN. On the left side of the map, you will see a list of available layer types. Click on any of them to enable or disable the layers you want to see. Those options will then appear in your “layer list” to the right of the screen, and you can toggle them on or off to make them appear on the map.
Like EJScreen, EPA has created online tutorials to explain how to use the EnviroAtlas software. Scroll to the bottom of the EPA’s tutorials page to find the “Quick Start Guide” and “Help” pages.
The EPA’s Envirofacts website has a comprehensive database of facilities that handle or may contain hazardous waste in the United States.
How to use EnviroFacts
From the homepage, click on the type of information you want—such as water or air. Or, you can do a general search by entering your zip code or county in the search bar on the left side of the page, scrolling to the bottom, and clicking “search.”
If you’re looking for information about facilities on Native American tribal lands, click on the “Multisystem Search” button. On the next page, you can select a tribe from the drop-down menu to find any sites on or near tribal land.
This database tends to contain less detail, so, after identifying a facility, you may need to go to some of the other resources described in this section for more detailed information.
Enter your zip code in the search box on the lower part of the page. This will allow you to view reports of all toxic releases in your zip code, listing what chemical was released, in what amount, and where the substance is being disposed of.
If you have specific questions about a release, you can call the Georgia Hazardous Waste Management Contact: Mike Elster (404) 657-8622, or by email at email@example.com.
Go to Georgia EPD’s hazardous site inventory and click on the “Sites Listed by County” link about halfway down the page. When you find a site that you are interested in, note the “HSI ID” (hazardous site inventory ID) in the left-hand column. Return to the original page and click on the “HSI Site Summaries” link at the bottom of the page. You will find more information about the site listed in numerical order by the “HSI ID.”
How’s My Watershed Tool
EPA’s How’s My Watershed tool contains useful information on water quality, land use trends, threats, and links to other sources of information displayed on a map. You can see the waterways near an address or zip code, whether those waterways are in good condition or “impaired” condition, and the location of discharges.
Georgia’s Watershed Protection Branch List
To learn about what chemicals are being discharged into rivers and streams in your area, you may go to EPD’s Watershed Protection Branch List. From here, you can click on a type of water permit and download a spreadsheet, which lists municipal and industrial wastewater permittees and can be sorted by county and city.
Georgia EPD’s Air Protection Branch provides lists of, and links to, air emissions permits for the entire state. Unfortunately, from here permits are only searchable by facility name, not by county or zip code, but you can use the Envirofacts website or other tools described above to find the facilities in your area first.
Facilities may hold more than one type of permit, so check the EJ Green Book’s Air Pollution page for a more in-depth description of the types of permits issued under the Clean Air Act.
Georgia EPD’s Title V Applications Archive contains more information on permit applications. Note: The Title V Applications Archive only only contains applications filed before August 1, 2015. For more recent applications, use the Georgia EPD Online System (the next tool in this list).
Georgia EPD Online System (GEOS)
Georgia EPD also operates a tool called the Georgia EPD Online System (GEOS) for online permit applications. The public can search materials in GEOS at no charge and without registering. The GEOS system can search by permit number, facility name, or specific address, or it can show lists of all the permits (of any kind) issued by EPD in a city or county.
Results will show “threshold” amounts listed for different pollutants in permits, meaning that the permitholder can release up to that amount. The thresholds in air pollution permits vary depending on whether the area the source is located in has “attained” certain standards for cleanliness.
The EPA’s Green Book contains details about the attainment or nonattainment status of Georgia counties under the Clean Air Act. Check the EJ Green Book’s Air Pollution page for more information about how air permitting works.
Facilities use GECO to submit emissions inventories and emissions statements, and also allows users to register for events hosted by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. You must be a registered user to access the online applications.
Additional Air and Water Quality Resources
There are also several online resources that are available as apps for Android and iPhone to check the air and water quality in your area on any given day. Though these apps will not show the source of any air or water pollution, they might be helpful in planning activities for the day or showing the effect of a source being nearby.
AirNow: Shows the up-to-date air quality for several localities and reports on ozone levels and fine particle pollution for any given time.
Air Quality | Air Visual: Provides similar information while also providing a seven-day forecast of the air pollution levels in the area.
Swim Guide: Provides a rating for many popular recreational water sources. In the app you can also find who tests the sites and what standards are applicable.