EPA's Latest Toxics Release Data Show Continued Decline

EPA's Latest Toxics Release Data Show Continued Decline

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released its 2004 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which provides information on toxic chemicals used and released by utilities, refineries, chemical manufacturers, paper companies, and many other facilities across the nation. The TRI is compiled from data submitted to EPA by industry and the states.

The 2004 TRI data indicates a decrease of 18 million pounds of chemical releases as compared with 2003. A total of 381.8 million pounds of chemicals were released during 2004 to the air, water or landfills by facilities in the mid-Atlantic region which is comprised of Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Releases in this same geographic area totaled 399.8 million pounds in 2003. When compared with the 2000 TRI data of 464.7 million pounds, the 2004 figures represent a 17.8% reduction in toxic pollutants released in the region.

"The TRI is a valuable resource for citizens and government alike," said Donald S. Welsh, EPA mid-Atlantic regional administrator. "Communities can use this data to begin dialogues with local facilities to encourage them to reduce emissions or develop pollution prevention plans; public interest groups use it to educate the public about toxic chemical emissions and potential risk; and EPA and the states use it to set priorities and allocate environmental protection resources to the most pressing problems.

The TRI also has been credited with arming communities with valuable knowledge and encouraging facilities to reduce their releases of toxic chemicals into the environment through source reduction, or pollution prevention measures.

The new data includes information on releases and other wastes from more than 650 chemicals and chemical compounds that companies are required to report under EPA's Toxic Release Inventory Program. The data includes chemicals that were released at the company's facility and those transported to disposal facilities off site.

Some chemical categories of TRI reporting are characterized as persistent bioaccumlative toxics, including lead and lead compounds, and mercury and mercury compounds. The data reflects a decrease in lead and lead compounds from 8.7 million pounds in 2002 to 7.6 million pounds in 2004 (in 2003 it was 7.4 million pounds) and a decrease from 58,920 pounds in 2002 to 42,384 in 2004 for mercury and mercury compounds (in 2003 it was 48,154 pounds). It is important to review the full data in context, since in many cases changes from one year to the next are less important than longer term trends.

The reporting of data to the TRI is required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), passed in 1986. The TRI provides the amount, location, and type of releases to the environment B whether a pollutant is emitted into the air, discharged into the water, or released onto the land. It also includes information on waste shipped off-site for disposal or further treatment.

The TRI data and background information are available to the public one the EPA Web site. Communities can also quickly and easily identify local facilities and chemical releases by using the TRI explorer mapping tool, available online.