Are you a construction worker breaking ground in unknown soil, or a parent, concerned about the toxic chemicals your children may be exposed to at school? Are you a homeowner, curious about the presence of buried health hazards in your neighborhood? Or an employee, interested to know whether you work in a former industrial area wrought with hidden pollutants?
There are nearly 1 million chemical spill sites in the United States, a figure roughly equivalent to the number of American schools and restaurants combined. Although it isn’t true that all schools are located above spill sites, many are. Don’t you want to know?
That’s where WhatsDown, an application that maps buried environmental and health hazards, comes in. Inspired by Yelp™, WhatsDown is a platform designed to help you learn about and evaluate the state of the environment near your home, work, and school. Currently, the app maps over 500,000 toxic spills in the U.S. alone.
By clicking on a spill site, you will gain access to detailed information about the spill, its implications for human health, and the effort made to clean it up. You will have the option to share this information through social media sites such as Facebook™, Google+™, and NextDoor™, via email, or print a WhatsDown Beacon that can be posted and scanned using a smartphone. By spreading the word about toxic spills, you can facilitate faster cleanup and raise awareness about toxic threats to public health.
WhatsDown is currently in the beta phase of testing and development. As things stand, some of the data we use are old and/or incomplete; we intend to bring the database up to date as quickly as possible. Inspired by your questions and feedback, we hope to continue in the creation of a tool that can drive environmental protection. Bookmark WhatsDown to stay informed of our progress!
For more information about how to use the map and how to share information about toxic spills, click on the “How To” button below. To proceed directly to the map, click on “Go to the Map.”
We welcome your questions and comments!
Terradex is pleased to provide WhatsDown for general informational purposes. The data presented on the site was gathered from a variety of government sources. While Terradex has taken care to present the data and information accurately, the data and information provided may include inaccuracies and may be incomplete or out of date.
Terradex makes no representations about the suitability of the information contained on this site for any purpose. All information and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Terradex hereby disclaims all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Terradex be liable for the the use, misuse, accuracy of, or otherwise for information or data available from this site.
Location information may not reflect the exact location and should be considered as estimates only. Areas indicating groundwater plumes should be considered as estimates and approximations, and may not reflect the actual location of groundwater plume areas. The data and information provided by WhatsDown was gathered over the course of time and data and information is not necessarily up to date. Terradex makes no warranty or guarantee as to the accuracy, timeliness, or completeness of any of the data or information provided, and assumes no legal responsibility for the data or information contained in or depicted on WhatsDown. Any use of WhatsDown with respect to accuracy and precision or otherwise, shall be the sole responsibility of the user.
We welcome comments, suggestions, and contributions related to the accuracy or completeness of the data provided so that we can continue to improve WhatsDown.
Terradex forbids the resale or other commercial use of the information provided in WhatsDown without our express written consent.
What Are Spill Sites?
A spill site is created after a chemical spill is reported to a government agency. WhatsDown currently holds approximately one million spill sites. Spill sites, for example, involve gas stations where fuel tanks leaked, dry cleaners where cleaning solvents spilled, industrial locations where chemical spills occurred in the process, and others. Spill sites can affect small areas or very large properties or groups of properties. Spill sites can also be due to very old spills, even dating back dozens of years or longer, as well as new ones.
How Are Spill Sites Shown on the Map?
WhatsDown shows points to locate spill sites, but please note that spills always affect an area rather than an actual point. In addition to locating the spill site, WhatsDown shows the cleanup progress as being incomplete or complete. Ordinarily, government agencies oversee cleanup activities which eventually reduce the chemical concentrations in the soil or the groundwater. Cleanup activities, for example, might include excavating the chemicals in the soil, pumping the contaminated groundwater, consolidating and “capping” contaminated soil, or allowing natural decomposition to occur. The complete status divides into cleanup with environmental protections or without. This is because government agency cleanup standards vary ranging from full cleanup that allows for unrestricted future use to more lenient “risk based” standards which allow some contamination to remain in place if environmental protections, including restrictions on the future use, are added to guard against exposure.
What Can I Learn in the Spill Site Information Window?
Shows the name of the spill site, the address where available, and a cleanup status icon. You can use the tabs in the information window to learn, share and ask about the spill site.
Where Does WhatsDown Get Spill Site Information?
Terradex obtains the information for WhatsDown from government agencies. We periodically refresh the data. You can check when we last updated the data, or if we are aware of site lists that we have not yet loaded to WhatsDown.
What Are Groundwater Plumes?
Groundwater is any water found beneath the earth’s surface. Groundwater can fill the space between soil grains or rock fractures, and it can exist at varied depths. A groundwater plume contains chemicals that have seeped into the the groundwater at a spill site and then diffused to contaminate a larger area.
Groundwater plumes pose health hazards in numerous ways. Some groundwater plumes contain cancer causing chemicals that can vaporize into basements or indoor rooms, much like the process of smoke rising. Chemical plumes can also pollute drinking water that comes from groundwater.
How Are Groundwater Plumes Shown on the Map?
The extent of a groundwater plume is typically determined by testing where the chemical concentrations diminish to safe levels set by government agencies. The plume boundaries are never precise. Boundaries are interpolated estimates based on discrete monitoring points.
How Can You Use the WhatsDown Information Balloon?
Touching or clicking a groundwater plume, shown in pink on the map, opens an information balloon. The party that is responsible for the spill’s cleanup appears at the top.
You can use the tabs in the information balloon to learn, share and ask about the plume. You can even order a test kit, to test for vaporized contaminants in the air at home or work.
Where Does Information on Groundwater Plumes Come From?
Terradex uses a variety of approaches to estimate the extent of a groundwater plume. We trace plumes from reports submitted by the polluting parties, we draw a plume shape around a study area, or we obtain a plume map from trusted parties. Plume boundaries change slowly. We welcome input on a plume to improve its location.
What Are Environmental Protections?
Environmental Protections are legal or physical controls, sometimes dubbed “institutional controls” by regulatory agencies, that guard people from unsafe exposure to contaminants at spill sites. Environmental Protections are put into place when government agencies allow spill site cleanups to occur under so called “risk based” standards, which allow some contamination to remain in place if environmental protections are added to guard against exposure. Environmental Protections limit activities and future uses that could pose health or environmental hazards. These protections ordinarily last for as long as contamination remains in place, which could be for many many year, even permanently in some cases.
WhatsDown shows Environmental Protections in “caution” yellow, indicating proceed with care. Environmental Protections often address a single parcel of land, but also can cover much larger areas when, for example, groundwater or soil contamination spreads across multiple properties. WhatsDown increasingly attempts to map the boundary of the Environmental Protection. Otherwise, WhatsDown shows the Environmental Protections as a point on the map.
Government agencies ordinarily require Environmental Protections to be tailored to the hazard. For example, if contaminated groundwater would inadvertently be used for drinking, the protection could be a drinking water restriction. If there were chemicals harmful to children, then protection could restrict use for schools or daycare. The protections are assembled based upon specific risks posed by the spill site. Not all spill sites have protections associated with them, especially those where cleanup has not been completed.
How Can the Environmental Protections Information Balloon Help?
Environmental protections often carry the name of the party responsible for the spill. When addresses are available, they are shown below the protection.
You can use the tabs in the information window to learn, share and ask about the spill site.
Where Does WhatsDown Learn About Environmental Protections?
These protections are often listed in registries at state or federal websites. When protections are shown as points, Terradex will review the documentation and convert the location to a mapped boundary.
What Are Munitions Areas?
Explosives hazards exist in munitions areas. Across the United States there are more than 10,000 properties affected by munitions on current or former military defense sites. These properties are known or suspected to contain military munitions, discarded military munitions, or munitions constituents. Site examples include former ranges and munitions burial areas.
You might notice areas shaped like fans over water or land. These are firing ranges, and unexploded munitions could be in soil or water.
If you believe you have encountered munitions, proceed with extreme caution, because munitions areas can be very dangerous. There are 3Rs for explosive safety:
For construction workers, special precautions can be taken to screen a work area to avoid encountering munitions while excavating.
How Can the Information Balloon Help?
The information balloon provides a name of the munitions area.
How Are Munition Sites Shown on the Map?
Munitions areas are shown as boundaries. Often they overlap.
Where Does WhatsDown Get Munitions Information?
WhatsDown displays maps from the 2012 Defense Environmental Restoration Program Annual Report to Congress by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The Army Corps manage the cleanup of munitions sites.
WhatsDown can help you find locations of buried environmental hazards, learn about them, then share what you have learned with friends. WhatsDown is not officially launched, contains important disclaimers, and you are using the early alpha release.
Find Your Location
|Touch the compass or search for a location to see map markers for nearby environmental hazards.|
|Learn About Nearby Hazards||Select a marker to learn about the hazard. WhatsDown will tell you the type of hazard, the chemicals spilled, protective tips, and the environmental agency monitoring the cleanup.|
|Stay Informed||For any hazard, you can ask our team of environmental scientist about the hazards, or signup for updates as WhatsDown learns more about this hazard.|
|Share||Share any hazard with friends through email or social media. In your neighboorhood, school or at work, help others learn what's down by printing and posting an Environmental Beacon above nearby hazards.|