New York Times Uses Public Records to Create Comprehensive Water Pollution Database

Using a variety of existing public records resources and online databases together with supplementary written FOIA requests, the New York Times created a national database of water pollution violations and associated penalties.  It summarizes all of the Times' research into a map that details violations and enforcements of facilities such as gas stations, dry cleaners, schools or industrial plants.  While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides annual statistics, the Times' database brings together more of the available records in one place. Public Records Resources Used by the Times

The Clean Water Act's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) grants permits to facilities that release pollutants into the environment.  The EPA maintains a database called ECHO (Enforcement & Compliance History Online) of the quarterly compliance reports submitted by these NPDES-permitted locations as well as any enforcement actions taken against violators.  For California, the Times additionally used state-issued stormwater permits and records from California's State Water Resources Control Board.  All of the information in the Times' database can be found individually by searching ECHO's or the California State Water Resources Control Board's websites.