Public Lab Research note

Report-back from second Open Call on Hurricane Harvey response and coordination

by warren | September 06, 2017 22:10 06 Sep 22:10 | #14833 | #14833

We again had an Open Call yesterday on the topic of Harvey response and ~6+ people attended, with:

  • questions
  • requests
  • report-ins
  • offers of help

(Full notes here) We are now collecting resources/links/etc on this page, and I've added the following text there:

We are happy to feature report-ins from folks involved in Harvey response on this page -- you can post them here. If there are specific asks or offers, what works best is to break those out as concrete questions, such as:

  • we need help with X?
  • does anyone need X?

That way we can get people connected up, whether they want to pitch in or they have information you need -- Public Lab's network spans over 10k people.

The notes for this call, as for last week's are below; please add missing or additional resources in the comments below. Thanks!

September 5, 2PM Central / 3PM ET

Call topic: Harvey disaster response

Present: Liz Barry, Gretchen Gerhke, Shannon Dosemagen, Sara Sage + Walter, Jeff Warren, Philip, Lee Pera, Julia Kumari, Scott Eustis, JP Maestre


  • Julia Kumari Drapkin - flooding
  • Scott Eustis: Gulf Restoration Network
  • JP of University of Austin, we are trying to put together a kit so people can test your water
  • Several others

Just a note that I'm posting this now and will circle back to organize it better and do more follow-ups -- it's a big document.

Updates since last week

Via Scott Eustis and others (jeff can intro):

Harvey - Money for the People campaign - for a just response and recovery

    • seeking equity in response - so marginalized people don't get overlooked
    • TEJAS - EJ group in ... Buffalo Bayou, East Houston, ...
    • driving money towards them for environmental things
    • Port Arthur, communities downstream from industrial facilities and public health threats
  • flights with SouthWings

  • Any scam donation sites we should avoid?

    • Harvey for the People list highlights groups to give to, potentially instead of to the Red Cross
    • Be aware: there are ~ seven cajun navies, there isn't one spokesperson, it's just everyone.

TEJAS report on disproportionate impact

TEJAS and Reggie James

Hashtag: #AJustHarveyRecovery

  • anything Sierra Club is doing is under that hashtag.
  • Uplift and local groups need to come out of this stronger than before.

Trying to map toxic sites in path of the flood

  • port La Vaca, Rockport, Port Aransas (sp?)

Scott will be flyilng over flood zone with Bayou City Waterkeeper (used to be Galveston Baykeeper)

Sample collection

  • Jordan Macha, in touch with National Waterkeeper Alliance
    • Jordan will have a lot to say about support for sampling needs
    • brown glass jars or mason jars and aluminum foil
    • as in Public Lab's Oil Spill Sampling guide
    • see below also under Offers

Aerial photography

  • kite + balloon kits + drones
  • photo processing systems like Cartography Collective (an old Public Lab initiative)
  • Scott (Gulf Restoration Network - @eustatic): We'll be producing imagery of affected areas and could use help processing this
  • going out on Sat. in Houston Galveston area to survey, see what needs further investigation, also Corpus Christi

    • rockport was completel flattened . formosa and alcoa. Advocates will be fighting the placement of new facilities nito floodplain areas,
  • We have to stop placing petrochemical facilities in the "disaster bowling alley" a la jula Kumari.

  • immense indudtrial no-mans' land: "technically it is the Uniited States" but really it's Shell and Chevron", and they are using up the wetlands and heading into mainland US.
    • XX has to move their facility out of the Natches RIver. We need to stop the boom in industrial construction with this LNG export.
    • we've made a map of everything in the gulf coast, texas has made a map of texas sites, Justin (a member of GRN) has a high-water vehicle is doing direct response and also making maps. (see below)
    • John Amos ( has set up an ushahidi map.
    • Scott is using all these maps to plan over-flights and communicate what's going on pollution-wise.


Sara Sage in California offers TDS equipment and methane detectors from Los Angeles

  • Jordan in Bayou City Waterkeeper and Brian P. from Sierra Club in Houston are going to need things, they have requests for monitoring equipment.

Sara: aren't chemical plants subject to the "Community Preparedness Right to Know" act?

Scott: the governor has undermined the public's ability to get "Tier 2" documents. When Abbot was Attorney General, he set "not to share" on these documents because of terrorism.

Sara: what about TRI?

Scott: i have the list, ...

Lee: EPA's TRI doesn't give down to the chemical level but EPA's TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act -- includes info re whole chemical inventory). Usually CBI (Confidential Business Information) has closed down the exact chemical list under "intellectual property" but now if you submit a form you can get it. EPA has also flown aspect and has imagery, and will probably be sharing it soon (will send link).

Mapping efforts

Harvey Ecological hazards via Justin Kray at GRN: looking to refine this workflow:

    • by creating a polygon layers of the physical footprint of facilities that are either:
    • A) known facilities reporting toxic release events (using various sources)
    • B) potential sites of toxic release for facilities that are located in close proximity to, or along waterways that flooded

GRN made a similar map for our internal planning, but also for public consumption:

We pulled our data from Climate Central's report on EPA data.

Sierra Club has a good map of facilities in TX as well:

for pollution reports, Skytruth has an NRC tracker, currently adding NRC reports to

And will be rolling out a Harvey Spill tracker soon.

@eustatic (Scott): I think what we need, is a tracking effort (like a google sheet?) that indexes different reports of pollution by source.

Our own reports (like LABB at Motiva), reports in the news, and NRC reports.

I've been making my own list of facilities that are of interest, because of the news, people's history with them, the potenial for spilling, or their size. The explosive chemical plant is excluded because i've made these for flight planning. .

as this list is for flight planning, it's not the be-all, but just something to focus attention.


Scott: Landfills are important to track, especially < a month from now, when nasty new landfills will spring up. we've got to be in communication with Lone Star Sierra Club about that, since i don't know how TCEQ will announce the new landfills.

Combined maps

Via Mikel Maron of Red Cross, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team:

We built this map yesterday from several sources. Feedback and guidance on iterations would be welcome, yes shareable

Things to do

  1. Speaking for GRN, remote folks can really help by combing NOAA's flyover photos:

  2. and screen cap or index the photos that show individual facilities flooding. Could these photos be embedded into a visualization?

  3. they could be posted to or (if photos)
  4. Just adding that this would make a nice hackathon. Someone provides instruction via Google Hangout to organizers and then organizers lead hackathons in their cities. (L.Birch) via Julia Kumari Drapkin offers to host datacollection via app + photo submissions -- ask if you're interested

  • plan in place to offer an API or data output mentioned this, flood maps usgs

Are there things high school students can do? - Walter

Scott note re: aerial photography processing needs

Note pollution reporting vs. flooding reporting

Can we collate/combine different map sources so we don't silo the information

Need for translation into Spanish -- via GRN/Sierra Club?

  • list of high priority translation needs?
  • Sierra Club map of different facilities
  • crowd translation interfaces (Liz will offer a list, unfortunately mostly for websites but maybe could work for a webmap?)
  • can these maps export their database of features so people can add a column for translation and give it back when done?

Translation tools:

Collecting samples

Coast Guard

Notes on reporting to Coast Guard

  • emergency respose to coast guard for large plants with long-term problems with their poor stormwater plans.
  • a sheen around a flooded car would be relatively smaller, so just report to state for long term tracking but not to deman emergency response.

Julia: would be helpful to connect USGS stream guages with the Skytruth alerts map.

scott: UCDavis made in Baton Rougue in 2016, this year Washington Post made maps of what rivers are up out of their banks.

Can someone call these guys to see if they are working on a similar harvey product? and ask them to share their polygon data.

Also, it would be nice to find points in polygons (Climate central data from EPA is points only). Would be great to add in the polygons that are on the UCDavis map.


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