The Story of Toxic Sites

The story dates back to 2006 when Brooke Singer, the creative director of Toxic Sites, met Robert Martin. Martin, an environmentalist and former National Ombudsman of the Environmental Protection Agency (1992-2002) was advising Singer on a citizen air-monitoring project for Lower Manhattan, leading him to the topic of New York City on 9/11. On that day, Robert was driving to his office, when the World Trade Center collapsed and the streets of New York were blanketed in a record amount of the most toxic substances ever known. Most Americans mourned and worried about further attacks, but EPA employees recognized the gravity of the environmental impact, swiftly mobilized first responders and internally debated whether all of Lower Manhattan should be declared a Superfund site – a site so hazardous that it warranted the relocation of inhabitants and immediate cleanup. In Robert’s opinion, all of Lower Manhattan qualified for Superfund after 9/11.

Singer knew this to be an extremely serious claim but did not fully understand the implications. It was this statement that began her inquiry into Superfund. In 2007, she created a data visualization application called that highlighted 365 of the worst Superfund sites in the US and provided a platform for people to share their own data and experiences with these sites.

In 2014, with news that the EPA would make more available and “web ready” its Superfund data, Singer planned a revision of the project that would include all 1300+ Superfund sites and would constantly update in real-time as the EPA provided new data.

Toxic Sites is a data visualization application that visually explains the many characteristics of a Superfund site and the process of cleanup. It is also a social media site for anyone affected by Superfund or interested in the program to participate via uploading a Story. It is a tool for a general user to learn or for someone more involved to advocate, connect and organize engagement across sites.


Brooke Singer
Founder and creative director

Brooke Singer is a media artist who lives in New York City. Her work blurs the borders between science, technology, politics and arts practices. She engages technoscience as an artist, educator, nonspecialist and collaborator. Her work lives "on" and "off" line in the form of websites, workshops, photographs, maps, installations and performances that involves public participation often in pursuit of social change. She is Associate Professor of New Media at SUNY Purchase and co-founder of the art, technology and activist group, Preemptive Media.

Lois Gibbs and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ)
Project partner

In the spring of 1978, a 27 year old housewife Lois Marie Gibbs discovered that her child was attending an elementary school built next to a 20,000 ton, toxic-chemical dump in Niagara Falls, New York. Desperate to do something about it, she organized her neighbors into the Love Canal Homeowners Association. Opposing the group’s efforts Occidental Petroleum, as well as local, state and federal government officials all insisted that the leaking toxic chemicals, including dioxin, the most toxic chemical known to man, were not the cause of the health problems experienced by residents, which included high rates of birth defects, miscarriages, cancers and other maladies.In October 1980, President Jimmy Carter delivered an Emergency Declaration which moved 833 families from this dangerous area and signified victory for the grassroots community. Once families were relocated from Love Canal, Lois’s life was changed forever. In 1981, Lois created the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, an organization that has assisted over 11,000 grassroots groups with organizing, technical, and general information nationwide. Today, Lois serves as Executive Director and speaks with communities nationwide and internationally about toxic chemicals and children’s unique vulnerability to environmental exposures.

John Kuiphoff
Lead programmer

John Kuiphoff is an Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Interactive Multimedia at The College of New Jersey. He is a developer and designer who specializes in mobile application development, emerging web technologies and interactive computing. John’s diverse skill set has enabled him to develop applications and games for Best Buy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local museums. He is a graduate of the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University.

Matt Yu
Lead designer

Matt Yu is a design director with more than a decade of experience, specializing in interaction design. He is currently working on Nomic, a job network for the food and beverage industry. Past clients include De-De, ScrollMotion, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Pentagram, Wieden + Kennedy: Tokyo Lab, Tocca, Studio Kudos, Arcade44, and Purchase College. He earned an honors bachelor of design degree at York University and Sheridan Institute in Toronto and Oakville, Ontario.He calls Greenpoint, Brooklyn home and makes music in his spare time with Christines.