Some companies whose environmental compliance histories are posted on a Web site by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are upset because they say the information is inaccurate and misleading.
In comments recently sent to the agency, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) claimed that the online database contains outdated information on industrial facilities and needs to be cleaned up.
``In particular, RMA is concerned about the quality of data included in the database, the lack of proper context given to the data and the inadequate procedures for correcting data errors,'' said Tracy Norberg, RMA vice president for environment and resource recovery, in a March 31 letter to Rebecca Kane at the EPA.
The Internet pilot database-called Enforcement and Compliance History Online, or ECHO-was launched Nov. 20 and offers compliance and enforcement data for the last two years for about 800,000 facilities.
It is accessible to members of both industry and the public who want detailed reports on organizations regulated by the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
The EPA extended the original Jan. 20 deadline to March 31 for formal comments on content, design and data accuracy.
The agency has received more than 10,000 form letter e-mails, 135 comments from official organizations or companies and 750 individual e-mail comments from a feedback button on the ECHO site, according to EPA spokesman John Millet.
All comments can be read in the information section at the ECHO site (www.epa.gov/echo). While the agency sent acknowledgments as responses were received, it is not responding to individual comments.
``We'll be encapsulating everything we got from all sides and providing a rationale on the Web site for why it looks the way it looks and doing ongoing upkeep and enhancements as it goes forward,'' Mr. Millett said.
A formal response is due in the next two to three months, he said. In the meantime, and even after the evaluation, people can continue to submit comments, which will be addressed in que, at the Web site.
But the RMA said the online comment system is cumbersome and inadequate and that issues do not receive a timely response or resolution. It recommends that the EPA consider taking ECHO offline while existing errors are corrected.
Some facilities are listed with incorrect or outdated corporate owners, Ms. Norberg said. Others have outdated or inaccurate data about enforcement activities, or relatively minor compliance situations classified as enforcement actions.
``While RMA understands that the information contained in the ECHO database reflects information collected through other sources, such as state and tribal environmental agencies, EPA has a duty under the Information Quality Act to assure the accuracy of the data,'' Ms. Norberg said. ``Unfortunately, ECHO has data quality problems and the information provided often lacks the proper context, which causes the database to provide misleading information.''