This week EPA released EJSCREEN, an environmental justice screening and mapping tool that uses high resolution maps combined with demographic and environmental data to identify places with potentially elevated environmental burdens and vulnerable populations. According to EPA, EJSCREEN’s simple to understand color-coded maps, bar charts, and reports enable users to better understand areas in need of increased environmental protection, health care access, housing, infrastructure improvement, community revitalization, and climate resilience.

Environmental justice is defined as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people, regardless of race or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA’s goal is to provide all people with equal access to the environmental decision-making process to maintain a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.

EPA intends for the screening tool to help governments, academic institutions, local communities, and other stakeholders to highlight communities with greater risk of exposure to pollution based on eight (8) pollution and environmental indicators, including traffic proximity, particulate matter, and proximity to Superfund sites. These indicators are combined with demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community 5-year Summary Survey, enabling users to identify areas with minority or low-income populations who also face potential pollution issues.

According to the Agency, EJSCREEN will not direct EPA decisions, will not provide a basis for identifying areas as EJ communities, and it is not an appropriate standalone tool for making a risk assessment. As a screening tool, its data may have high levels of uncertainty and is therefore incomplete in capturing the total number of pollution problems people face. EPA has initiated a stakeholder engagement period over the next six (6) months. EPA will collect feedback on the datasets and design of the tool—as well as how it could be further enhanced—and will release a revised version in 2016.

The review and access EJSCREEN, visit EPA’s website at http://www2.epa.gov/ejscreen.