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MEI Online: Environmental Issues: Latest News: July 18th 2003

:: US Toxic Releases Reported  

At the end of June, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), the annual report on the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment for facilities reporting in calendar year 2001. The report shows that toxic chemical releases continue to significantly decline across the US. Total releases of chemicals nationwide decreased by 15.5%, or some 476,000 t, from reporting year 2000 to 2001. Based on trends since the inception of TRI in 1988, chemical releases have decreased approximately 54.5%.

"The Toxics Release Inventory is one of the most important activities EPA completes each year. It is a tool that gives the American public information on chemical releases for their communities so that they can make informed decisions about protecting their environment," said acting EPA administrator Linda Fisher. "I am especially pleased that this year there are some innovative ‘firsts’ in the TRI, including a new mapping capability to make it easier to get information. The entire TRI database is on-line, and I encourage citizens to use our TRI Explorer tool, enter their state and county, and see the data for themselves."

Looking at all chemical releases, approximately 27% of chemicals were released to air, 4% to water, 4% to underground injection on- and off-site and 65% to land on- and off-site. For all industries, there was a decrease in releases of mercury to air by nearly 7%, and to water of 25.6%. As in previous years, releases from the metal mining industry in 2001 made up a substantial portion of all chemical releases––45%. However, the metal mining industry also had the largest absolute decrease, by 273,000 t, a 20% decrease from their releases in 2000. About 17% of the releases were from electric utilities––about 45,000 t––achieving an 8.5% decrease from 2000.

The report indicates some increases in emissions of particular chemicals, limited to a very small number of facilities, mainly due to changed reporting thresholds or one-time processes. For example, this year's report includes data that reflects a new 45-kg threshold for reporting of lead and lead compounds - previously, facilities only reported for lead if they manufactured or processed over 11,300 kg or used over 4,535 kg. Because of this reporting change, the total lead releases increased by 31,300 t from 170,000 t pounds to 201,300 t.

Meanwhile, in early July, almost one-third of the House members urged President Bush in a letter not to weaken controls on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The first hearing was July 8, in the House Energy and Commerce energy and air-quality subcommittee, on proposed legislation to implement the president's Clear Skies initiative for reducing mercury, nitrogen oxides, and sulphur dioxide pollution from coal-burning power plants.

The TRI data and background information are available to the public at www.epa.gov/tri and the TRI explorer mapping tool is available at www.epa.gov/triexplorer.



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