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Volume 1, Number 5

September, 2005

 Successful Application of Web-based Technologies Improve Efficiency
 and Info Flow

 By Anna Soehl

 

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Tier 2 Data Entry Screen

Clickable Map

Digital Health Screen

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In today’s electronic age developing creative and effective ways to enhance an agency’s services is an ongoing challenge. Recently, MDE's Technical and Regulatory Services Administration’s (TARSA) staff, in cooperation with other institutions, has identified a number of web-based technologies that will improve MDE services.

 “The new web-based programs will minimize burden on regulated businesses, provide the public with a better access to information, and improve MDE operating efficiency,” said Dr. Rich Eskin, director, TARSA. “We are utilizing available technology to enhance the flow of information that will provide more timely response and improve science-based decisions.”

The Community Right To Know (Maryland Online Tier Two Reporting System), Maryland Beach (Digital Health Department), Shellfish Certification (Multi-sensor Precipitation Estimator), and Ecological Assessment (Clickable Map) programs are all incorporating web-based technologies.

Maryland Online Tier Two Reporting System
The Community Right-To-Know program has just completed the second year of electronic data collection using the Maryland Online Tier Two Reporting System (MOTTRS). An estimated 70 percent of regulated facilities use the online system to fulfill their reporting obligations.

According to the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), facilities that use or store hazardous materials at or above certain thresholds must annually file a detailed chemical inventory report. Over 2,500 facilities in Maryland file such reports each year. Prior to implementing MOTTRS, the reports were filled out and submitted in a paper format.

The new electronic reporting system has streamlined the submission process for both the agency and the regulated industry. The system retains previous year’s submissions, and upon successful login, allows the user to update the previous year’s information for the current reporting year. “As a result, the system provides the agency with more timely and comprehensive data to use in emergency planning and response activities,” said Dr. Eskin.

This application is currently being enhanced to enable online data sharing between MDE and the county governments. For more information about MOTTRS please contact Patricia Williams at 410-537-3800 or Patricia.Williams1@maryland.gov.

Precipitation Data Help Make Science-based Decisions
MDE’s Shellfish Certification program uses 24-hour rainfall totals to evaluate potential pollution runoff and ultimately determine whether shellfish harvesting should remain open. Rainfall in excess of one inch in 24 hours may produce pollution levels that fail to meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for shellfish harvesting. When rainfall exceeds the one-inch threshold in a specific area, MDE will close harvesting for a period of three days.

The newly established data-sharing partnership with NOAA’s Middle Atlantic River Forecast Center (MARFC) allows access to Multi-sensor Precipitation Data. For accurate and timely decisions relating to shellfish closures in Maryland waters. MDE combines weather radar rainfall estimates and rain gauge data to optimize precipitation details. Previous to this technology, the state determined the need for shellfish closures via a limited system of land-based, volunteer operated rain gauges throughout the Chesapeake Bay.

For more information about Multi-sensor Precipitation Estimate data for Shellfish Closures please contact Kevin Wagner at (410)-537-3582 or Kevin.Wagner@maryland.gov.

Clickable Maps
Any individual interested in Maryland water monitoring information can soon query information relating to statewide water quality monitoring. This is made possible thanks to a partnership between Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Water Monitoring Council, and the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County.

The web-based Clickable Map application uses a mapping interface to coordinate among individuals and organizations who collect water quality monitoring data in specific areas. This framework allows water monitoring agencies and groups across the state to more effectively share data, resources, and technology.

At the moment, project partners are further exploring ways that Maryland schools could incorporate the Clickable Map into their curricula to encourage student-based water monitoring programs. For questions or comments concerning the map please contact Matthew Rowe at 410-537-3578 or Matthew.Rowe@maryland.gov. If you would like to ensure that your monitoring program’s information and stations are included on the map, visit: http://cuereims.umbc.edu/MWMC/.

Digital Health Department
In order to assist the Maryland Beaches Program, MDE worked with Garrison Enterprises, Inc. to customize its Digital Health Department application. Full implementation of the Maryland version of this application is expected prior to the 2006 beach season.

With the help of the Digital Health Department, field crews will be able to: use laptops instead of paper forms when collecting samples; schedule field sampling and prepare sample labels electronically; and enter bacteriological sample results directly into the database.  This new application will strengthen existing quality control and quality assurance measures, create an electronic database for storing historical and new beach related data, and help report data to the EPA. The Digital Health Department will also make lab results immediately available to local health departments for more timely public notifications. This will ultimately improve the ability of both local and state governments to protect the health of Maryland beach goers.

MDE is currently testing the system. For more information, please contact Mario Cora at (410)537-3858 or Mario.Cora@maryland.gov.

:: This Issue's Featured Articles :: Enforcement and Compliance Notes :: For the Record

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Maryland Department of the Environment
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