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Health Assessment Project

Reports on Hazardous Waste Sites in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania currently is ranked among the highest in the nation with respect to the number of National Priority Listing (NPL) sites, commonly known as Superfund.  States like New Jersey, California and New York all rank among the highest along with Pennsylvania for having NPL sites that are designated under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA).  The Pennsylvania Department of Health has a Health Assessment Program (HAP) funded under a cooperative agreement with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to produce a variety of technical documents such as public health assessments (PHAs) and Health Consultations (HC). For more detailed information, please see the Health Assessment Project page at Environmental Health Epidemiology.

Since 1989 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has funded HAP through ATSDR to publish reports on toxic waste sites in Pennsylvania.The HAP program has produced more than 150 documents and reports on a wide variety of toxic waste sites and contaminated locations.   These documents, however, have not always been readily accessible for investigations for follow-up for health surveillance and development of more detailed data analyses.  For example, HAP members historically could not easily search across all their reports and documents for common terms such as chemicals/ constituents involved or dates of incidents, or results and consequences of responses to complaints from the public regarding specific toxic sites.  PA EPHT along with HAP has determined that it would be advantageous if the content of these documents were to be made electronically available on an interactive map interface, capable of documents search.  Using an application that PA EPHT and HAP have developed, citizens and researchers can now query the presence of specific chemicals at waste sites and the geographic locations of pollutants to locate environmental hazard sources for toxic waste sites that have been cleaned-up or are scheduled for clean-up.   
PA EPHT has placed on its web-site a comprehensive system of health and environmental data to search multiple HAP documents using common variables that also include the GIS spatial component.  The main model underlying the work is the concept of using precise geographical coordinates of the toxic waste locations.  The geographical model now enables the public and others to access related information spread across multiple HAP documents to address concerns of toxic hazards and to generate new information concerning the public health consequences of environmental contamination.