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New mapping tool helps improve Superfund site evaluations and more effectively address environmental health concerns

The Columbia University Superfund Research Program “NPL Superfund Footprint: Site, Population, and Environmental Characteristics” Mapper has been created to provide researchers, regulators, and the general public with an innovative tool to better visualize and understand the characteristics of vulnerable populations, built and natural features, and environmental exposures near the National Priorities List Superfund sites. Its purpose is to help improve the evaluation of Superfund sites and more effectively address related environmental health concerns.


Before exploring with the Mapper, click on “Quick Tour” to better understand how to use it. In addition, click on “Metadata Guide” for more extensive explanations of the data used. Both links are located along the top bar of the Mapper.


Here are a few helpful hints. To see the legends associated with each layer, it is necessary to click on the plus sign to the left of the layer name under “Map Contents”. When you use the Identify pointer (“i”) from the menu above/right of the map, click on the location, scroll down and then click on each of the layers listed for specific information. Because the box size is limited for this information, users are asked to click on “Add to Results” at the bottom of the box and view it in the “Results” section above “Map Contents”. There are several ways to zoom in with the Mapper: “Zoom to EPA Region” in the menu, the zoom scroll bar on the map, the magnifier tool above/right of map (allows users to click and draw rectangle), and the scroll wheel on the mouse.


The NPL Superfund site data used for the Mapper consist primarily of polygon shapefiles provided by ATSDR’s Geographic Research, Analysis and Services Program (GRASP) with attribute data from EPA CERCLIS. This permits the creation of 1 and 4 mile buffers surrounding the perimeters of the Superfund sites. To more accurately estimate populations and their characteristics in proximity to these sites, US Census Grids population data (raster) are utilized. DOE schools data have been used so that it is possible to determine the number of children attending schools within 1 and 4 miles of Superfund sites. The number of women of childbearing age living within these buffers is also available for each site.


The NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper is built on the Esri Web Application Development Framework (WebADF) and gives user access to GIS capabilities and data through a Web browser. After this project was well underway, Esri announced that it will no longer provide technical support for WebADF under ArcGIS 10.1.  However, the Mapper will still be available using ArcGIS 10.0. The WebADF was selected for its many features that serve the needs of the user community, such as saving results in an additional panel and comparing the attributes of multiple layers. Also data layers can be added to the map relatively easily when provided in a usable format.


Funding for the NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper has been provided by NIEHS Superfund Research Program, as a supplement to the Columbia University Superfund Research Program on the Health Effects and Geochemistry of Arsenic and Manganese (NIEHS 3 P42 ES010349-10).


Click here for NPL Superfund Footprint Mapper.