EPA identified the mining industry as the nation''s largest toxic polluter. Hardrock mining operations accounted for 17 of the top 20 toxic releasing facilities in the United States in 1999.
This is the second year in a row the mining industry has earned the title of top polluter in EPA''s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), its annual report on the toxic chemicals released by U.S. industries.
This year the mining industry was responsible for slightly less than half (3.6 billion pounds) of all toxic releases (7.4 billion pounds) by all U.S. industries combined.
Additionally, EPA again identified the mining industry as the nation''s largest releaser of arsenic.
The mining industry reported releasing 585 million pounds of arsenic and arsenic compounds, 97 percent of all arsenic-related releases.
Electric utilities were the second largest polluting sector in 1999, with just under 1.2 billion pounds in chemical releases, up 24.9 million pounds or 2.2 percent.
A coalition of consumer groups said the data showed the need for better environmental protections, while the Bush Administration recently rolled back several regulations, including new standards reducing the amount of arsenic in drinking water.
EPA said the annual report reflects releases and other waste management activities of chemicals, not exposure of the public to those chemicals.
"The release estimates alone are not sufficient to determine exposure or to calculate potential adverse effects on human health and the environment," said the agency.
EPA''s annual TRI report can be found on the agency''s Web site at www.epa.gov.
by Virginia Sutcliffe