A Yorker who is buying a new house or researching a neighborhood should be able to use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency database to pinpoint the location of the nearest facility that keeps stockpiles of hazardous chemicals or releases toxins.
But in reality, York officials have known for years that the EPA's "Envirofacts" database is flawed.
It provides incorrect locations and, in one case, lists a coal-burning plant as being in the middle of a four-lane highway.
The mislocation of Brunner Island -- which is along the Susquehanna River in East Manchester Township, not more than six miles away on Interstate 83 -- is one of more than 1,000 inaccuracies identified by county workers and a resident who has made a mission of correcting the site.
Mike Jacoby of Springfield Township first took the issue to York County Commissioners after a fire at an adhesives plant near his home several years ago inspired a visit to the database, found at http://www.epa.gov/enviro/facts/multisystem.html.
After numerous hours of sifting through records, York County Commissioners are sending a letter to the federal government asking officials to correct the errors.
Citizen review: Jacoby reviewed the findings with commissioners at a public meeting last week, with county Chief Clerk/Administrator Chuck Noll saying he'll send the updated information to the EPA.
County spokesman Carl Lindquist said facilities are required by law to report to the government when they store certain quantities of chemicals or other materials.
The information compiled in the database is, according to the EPA, is a tool for anyone to search locations of multiple environmental hazards, "including toxic chemical releases, water discharge permit compliance, hazardous waste handling processes, Superfund status, and air emission estimates."
While the database errors might not be helpful to someone who doesn't want to live near, for example, a Superfund site, Lindquist said residents aren't being harmed.
County emergency responders have "accurate" maps, he said, and they do not use the EPA database for any type of emergency response.
The Office of Emergency Management has response plans it develops with the relevant businesses to aid in response if there is a problem, he said.
"Even though the county neither uses nor has a responsibility for the database, we felt should make an effort to address the inaccuracies," he said.
EPA spokeswoman Latisha Petteway said in an email that the agency "cannot provide comment on a document that we have not yet received."
Once it is verified that officials have "received the letter in question, we will be happy to address your concerns," she said.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at 505-5436, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at @YDYorkCounty.