Environmental groups are pleased with EPA'' s decision to release its annual Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data from 1998 to the public.
For the first time, the inventory covers toxic pollution released from mines and utilities, and the quantities dumped into hazardous waste landfills.
"Disclosing these emissions is an important citizens'' victory that will help people organize to clean-up and prevent toxic pollution," said Paul Orum, director of the Working Group for Community Right-to-Know.
For the first 10 years, the inventory covered only manufacturing industries. The data released last week by EPA covers seven additional industries, including metal mines, toxic waste disposal and utilities.
These new industries report large amounts of toxic pollution, making gaps in regulatory coverage more apparent, according to the Working Group on Community Right-to-Know.
Several public interest leaders in the environmental field have also commented on the data released.
"The new TRI data show that hardrock mining creates huge amounts of toxic pollution. Congress should end the mining industry''s current exemption from toxic waste laws, and reject attempts to legally allow more dumping of toxic mine waste," said Alan Septoff of the Mineral Policy Center.
For grassroots environmental groups across the country, expanding the TRI to include more industries is a start, but to protect communities these groups believe the use of toxic chemicals should be reduced.
"Citizens not only want to know how much pollution is being released into their communities, they want facilities to prevent releases in the first place," said Lois Gibbs of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.
Some groups suggest that industries should track and report toxic chemical uses, not just releases, in order to promote pollution prevention.
"States that collect chemical use information are reducing production waste, contrary to the national trend," said Becky US P.I.R.G. "President Clinton should require federal facilities to track and report toxic chemical use. This would make the federal government a pollution prevention leader and leave a lasting right-to-know legacy."
The Working Group for Community Right-to-Know is pushing for a proposal that would protect the public''s right-to-know about toxic pollution.
"We are very concerned about any proposal from the administration that weakens the public right-to-know," said Lisa Mosca of the Working Group. "We should close current loopholes, not create new ones."
The Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act was passed in 1986 as part of Superfund, the nation''s toxic dumpsite cleanup law.
The data released last week by EPA covers the 1998 reporting year.
by Virginia Sutcliffe