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The release of an institutional control data schema and flow

Marking a big step forward in the “institution” for institutional controls (ICs), on June 10, 2013 the Environmental Information Exchange Network (EIEN) announced the release of an IC Data Exchange. The IC Data Exchange provides a standard means for sharing IC information between separately-owned computer systems – including sharing among different levels of government and between government and private systems.

This standardized approach will help bring sorely needed IC information into land activity and use decision-making, improving IC compliance and, therefore, cleanup remedies. The IC Data Exchange includes an IC XML data schema, which sets standard rules for “packaging” IC data and, in turn, allows “query and response” data flows where requestors receive standardly-packaged IC data from data owners via “REST” or relatively more complex “SOAP” methods. The IC Data Exchange, as it becomes implemented, could significantly improve long-term IC management.

While an IC data standard has been in place since 2006, this crucial first step still needed an IC data schema to allow computer systems to actually begin requesting and sending IC data via sharing and publishing methods, like “SOAP” and “REST.”  To help take this next step, Terradex brought its niche expertise – over a decade of practice in implementing, mapping, and monitoring ICs – to support a team assembled by the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) that included the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), Indiana Department of Environmental Management and Windsor Solutions, Inc. What is an XML data schema? XML is a document format that is both machine and computer readable, and the XML schema introduces the rules to assure that two XML documents, like two institutional control documents, are described in the same structure. This core information contained in the IC XML schema covers, for example:  What are the use restrictions?  Where are the use restrictions applied? What are the obligations associated the IC? And who are the parties participating in the IC’s implementation? A snippet of the sample IC data is shown below.Why is an IC data schema material to a remedies success? ICs are often held by overlapping jurisdictions.  For example in Ohio, the Ohio EPA might hold state-issued ICs, the EPA may hold ICs relative to Superfund or RCRA facilities, and federal facilities like the Department of Defense or Department of Energy may hold ICs relative to there facility. Agencies may hold hundreds if not thousands of ICs, and therefore a common machine-readable approach, that can also be read as a text document, aids an sharing  the IC information by stakeholders. States are becoming the ultimate repository of ICs within their jurisdiction. With an IC schema in place, there is now a protocol that states could request other parties that hold ICs within the state’s boundary. For example, Ohio EPA could be anticipated to maintain an inventory of all ICs held by various parties, including those held by other federal agencies like EPA, DOD or DOE. Equally, the US EPA could now have a mechanism to aggregate ICs on a national basis assembled by various states. Herein occurs the rationale for an IC data exchange.The IC data schema also provides rules and structure to describe engineering controls. The schema accommodates the description, location and obligations associated the remedy components can be recorded. The schema is posed toward the future by anticipating the long-term use of active engineering controls like those applied to control vapor intrusion. The schema can convey periodic maintenance obligations, and maintain information on the operational status of the engineering control.

An IC data schema helps get IC information to those managing or taking part in day-to-day land use activities. For ICs to be implemented effectively, the nature of the restrictions and their locations need to be shared with parties who are impacted by the IC. This would include local governments who guide safe building and planning decisions, water agencies protecting groundwater use, excavation clearance systems overseeing safe excavations, or private data suppliers informing the buyers of restricted properties. With the schema in place software tools that facilitate this sharing of information can become more efficient and reliable given a common IC data schema.

The days are still early for the IC data exchange. While published, the schema has not been put into practice. Terradex is hopeful to be participant in early exchanges where by state IC data can be exchanged with local governments or excavation services. This exchange would relay upon data services relying on SOAP or REST protocols to transmit the IC data from a repository to use. Short of an exchange, the schema can prove beneficial to state and private parties that seek a data structure for storage of IC information.

Webinar. On July 8, 2013, from 1:00-2:30PM ET, the Network Technology Board (NTB) will sponsor an Open Conference Call to review the recently released Institutional Controls (IC) Data Exchange. The IC data flow provides both Query and Solicit services for sharing IC data among Network Partners.

The Open Call will provide background on the IC flow development effort, an overview of the IC XML schema, and a description of the services supported by the IC data flow. In addition, Ohio EPA and Indiana DEM staff will share their plans for implementing the IC data flow on the Exchange Network. Finally Terradex will discuss how private software solutions would apply IC data flows to support providing public notice of ICs and monitoring IC effectiveness.

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