Toxic Hot Spots

Can we put everything that is a source of problems on our Green Maps? It's possible, but it's more likely that our Maps will give an overview, rather than a comprehensive examination of these toxic hot spots. Governmental agencies (city, state (or equivalent) or national environmental agencies), university research centers and environmental organizations can help you identify these sources. Your map should always state information sources. Provide contact information about that source on your Map, as they can provide better info about the problems than you can. Please specify the criteria you used to select these sites. Consider legal issues when naming names, and referring map users to other reliable sources of information.

Even if you decide not to show individual problem sites on your Map, you can remind people how their own lifestyle choices can result in toxic hot spots, and suggest alternatives/actions. Include advocacy resources, and info on related health effects and environmental justice (hot spot are often in poorer neighborhoods), as well as pollution prevention hints (for example, prevent motor oil from being poured into storm drains by listing places to dispose of it safely).

noise pollution source: sometimes difficult to pinpoint, but it has a powerful effect on quality of life. Can come from traffic, industrial sources, airports, quarries, heavy equipment, transportation terminals etc.

air pollution source: anything from industrial smokestacks to truck routes, to poorly-run composting projects can be included here.

water pollution source: includes things like a specific factory's pollution stream or an inadequate sewage treatment plant. Sometimes, these are "non-point" sources, like where the hydrocarbons wash off paved roads or a farm where animal wastes and/or chemical fertilizers drain off the land into drinking water supplies.

toxic chemicals storage: where large quantities of toxic chemicals are stored in an approved manner, prior to industrial or other use. Often reported to the government, where records can be obtained (though you might have to file a special request for the information). In some countries, this information is available on the web, current and up to date.

toxic chemicals release: may have been an acute one-time event, or a chronic "business as usual" problem at an industrial or infrastructure site. May be from a neighborhood businesses, like a dry cleaning plant or coal-burning school furnace not generally recognized as problems. Usually, residents in the area are very interested in knowing what's going on "in their backyard", and then taking action. In some countries, this information is available on the web, current and up to date. You can identify a historic release (be sure to note it properly).

nuclear facilities and waste: possible sources of radiation leaks and radioactive wastes. May be destination points for trucks and trains carrying radioactive materials, military, health and research facilities. It might be of interest to note the percentage of electricity that comes from nuclear power plants in your area.

hazardous waste generators: often industrial or infrastructure-related sources of waste that need special handling and disposal. You can elect to show those on a governmental list. Calgary points out that it is difficult to define limits to criteria. Could be broad range - dry cleaners, hospitals, universities, military sites, photo labs, etc.

hazardous waste facilities: collectors, transporters and recyclers of hazardous materials, including industrial chemicals as well as household hazardous wastes like pesticides, oil paints, batteries, some cleaning supplies, etc.

superfund site: these sites are on the government's official priority "clean-up" list, like the USA's Superfund list. Can be used for severely polluted sites, even in countries without an official list. In some countries, these sites must be cleaned up by industry.

remediated site: have been cleaned up and are ready for natural systems to take over, or to be re-developed. In the US, brownfields (land either contaminated by toxics, or perceived to be) programs are putting remediated industrial lands back to work, often in economic re-development zones (where people need jobs). Can include sites where the cleanup is in progress. Your text could include action taken, health and timing details.

waste dump: illegal, improperly lined and maintained place where garbage is dumped. Older dumps can be a source of hazardous drainage.

oil spill: may be old or recent. Sometimes, the spilled oil comes from an "accident" but can also be a chronic problem along the oil pipelines that feed the electricity grid, in re-fueling areas at airports or in a neighborhood where residents refuse to properly dispose of their used motor oil. Certain waterways and industrial areas have frequent problems. Also includes pipeline leaks, trucking and rail accidents as well as gas station spillage.

underground storage tank: Icon usually used for oil and gas leaks, for example, a gas station with leaking underground tanks can be an invisible source of pollution. Home fuel oil storage tanks can also be a problem.

oil/natural gas facility: can be a "tank farm" with several large storage containers, or a place where oil is pumped and processed. Where does the energy that powers your lifestyle come from? What are the hazards associated with current practices?

mining site: may not be currently in use, but the effects may still be felt. Some cities are built directly on top of mines and quarries. Indicate what is being mined: coal, salt, etc.

blight site: an area generally destroyed with toxics and other ugliness by uncaring industry and people. Set and state your criteria.

revised 2-4-99
text from the Green Map System's Guide to Green Mapmaking, ©Modern World Design 1999