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The Fate and Transport of Toxic Releases

A GIS Case Study


David W. Kelley
Department of Geography
University of St. Thomas


The release of toxins into the environment and the federal government's tracking of that using the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) compiled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are the focus of this case study, which uses GIS to explore the potential impacts of the release of such substances. The case was developed for an introductory environmental studies course. It would also be appropriate for use in an introductory GIS course or cartography course where some analysis is required, an introductory chemistry course for non-majors (with some more prep work on partitioning coefficients and fate and transport), or a basic soils course where remediation techniques are emphasized. The case study requires ESRI’s ArcView 3.3 software in a computer lab setting, although it could easily be adapted for use with ArcGIS 9.x.

  • To use the scientific method, real-world data, and insights from class lectures and readings to gain a better understanding of the relationships between environmental quality and the potential impacts of economic development.
  • To facilitate students’ examination of where they live and what they buy.
  • To facilitate students’ examination of the consequences that arise from modern industries and conveniences.
  • To explore the environmental consequences of accidental or purposeful release of potentially hazardous substances in a mixed urban/rural setting.
  • To expose students to the use of GIS as a tool to examine complex environmental issues with a spatial context.
Keywords: Geographic information systems; GIS; ArcView; spatial patterns; hazardous substances; hazardous waste; volatile organic compounds; accidental release of toxins; Toxic Release Inventory; Environmental Protection Agency; EPA
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues)
Language: English
Subject Headings: GIS   Geography   Environmental Science   Environmental Engineering  
Date Posted: 01/31/07
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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