Total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010, mostly because of decreases in hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions, even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row, according to the EPA annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report.
The annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) provides the public with vital information about chemicals in our communities. The TRI program collects information on certain toxic chemical releases to the air, water and land, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention activities by facilities across the country. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities and commercial hazardous waste facilities.
“The Toxics Release Inventory provides widespread access to valuable environmental information. It plays a critical role in EPA’s efforts to hold polluters accountable and identify and acknowledge those who take steps to prevent pollution,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “Since 1998, we have recorded a steady decline in the amount of TRI chemicals released into the air, and since 2009 alone, we have seen more than a 100 million pound decrease in TRI air pollutants entering our communities. This remarkable success is due in part to the TRI program and concerted efforts by industry, regulators and public interest groups to clean up the air we all depend upon.”
Among the HAPs showing decline were hydrochloric acid and mercury. Likely reasons for the decreases seen over the past several years include installation of control technologies at coal-fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources. Releases into surface water decreased 3 percent and releases to land increased 19 percent since 2010, with the latter again due primarily to the metal mining sector.
Many of the releases from TRI facilities are regulated under various EPA programs and requirements designed to limit harm to people’s health and the environment.
The 2011 TRI data show that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment (i.e., air, water or land), an 8 percent increase from 2010. The difference is mainly due to increases in land disposal at metal mines, which typically involve large facilities handling large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the ore being mined can lead to big changes in the amount of toxic chemicals reported nationally. Other industry sectors also saw smaller increases in releases, including the hazardous waste management sector.
EPA has improved this year’s TRI national analysis report by adding new information about facility efforts to reduce pollution, insights into why air releases are declining, and an enhanced analysis of releases on tribal lands. With this TRI report and EPA’s web-based TRI tools, citizens can access information about TRI-listed toxic chemical releases in their communities and across the country.
Facilities must report their toxic chemical releases to EPA under the Federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) by the beginning of July each year. The Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 also requires information on waste management activities related to TRI chemicals. Also, EPA’s TRI mobile application, myRTK, geographically displays nearby facilities that report to the TRI program, as well as facilities with EPA air, water or hazardous waste program permits.