Work continues as the weather brings another round of hurricanes, and efforts are now taking shape to identify pollution. Storms cause damage to coastline areas, home to many oil refineries, waste water treatment facilities, nuclear plants and other potential hazards. To make matters worse, flooding can cause pollutants from these sites to spread quickly. A post on Civicist offers details on Spill Tracker, a mapping tool that citizen scientists can use to upload reports of their own sightings. It was created by SkyTruth, a nonprofit that uses satellite imagery for all the right reasons—tracking environmental issues, engaging citizen science, sharing data for research and basically keeping the planet honest. The organization comes from a heroic start.
Founded by a geologist named John Amos in 2001, SkyTruth is best known as the organization that first challenged BP’s estimate of the oil spill after the offshore drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded in 2010. Using satellite images, the SkyTruth team calculated that the rate of flow from the leak was five to 25 times more than BP was reporting.
Spill Tracker is easy to use, allowing a citizen to input a location, description of the problem, as well as a photo. Pins are starting to emerge in Texas as data is being collected from areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Some of those appear to be gas spills while others are reports of chemical vapors and plumes. Another great thing about SkyTruth is that you can request alerts for environmental incidents that occur at a location of interest. Consider it a warning system that you might not otherwise have. Of course right now the focus needs to be on those being hit the hardest, so spread the word about Spill Tracker and help others to have a voice in repairing their communities.