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EPA Publishes Toxics Release Inventory for 2010

Posted on the 27 January 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

EPA Publishes Toxics Release Inventory for 2010Every year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) publishes the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which provides emissions data on 650 toxic chemicals, as well as information on waste management and pollution prevention practices of industrial facilities around the country. Data from TRI show that while releases and disposals of hazardous chemicals grew by 16 percent between 2009 and 2010 (the latest reporting year), there has been a 30 percent reduction since 2001.

According to the EPA, the metal mining sector is likely the single most influential industry affecting both short- and long-term fluctuations in toxic chemicals data. Due to its size, slight chemical changes in the ore being mined likely caused the 16 percent increase, as well as significant releases to surface water (increased by 9 percent) and to land (by 28 percent). As for the 30 percent decrease between 2001 and 2010, the EPA cites a court case ruling pertaining to the metal mining sector as a probable explanation: in the case, Barrick Goldstrike Mines, Inc. v. Whitman, the court ruled that low levels of some naturally occurring toxic chemicals are exempt from TRI reporting.

TRI also collects information on production-related toxic waste to track industry progress and help move it towards safer waste management practices. Between 2001 and 2010, the total amount of toxic waste managed by TRI facilities declined by 19 percent. The TRI report says this drop was caused in part by facilities’ greater commitment to source reduction and pollution prevention. However, the roughly 21,000 facilities required to report their emissions data produced over 21.8 billion pounds of toxic chemicals in 2010. Of this figure, 17.8 billion pounds were recycled (~40 percent), burned as energy (~20 percent), or treated (~40 percent)—leaving nearly four billion pounds that were disposed of or released to the environment.

While this might seem like a lot, the actual numbers are much higher. As iWatchNews points out, the self-reported data collected by the EPA represent just a portion of the chemicals produced by a fraction of American industries. Even with these limitations, though, it is still encouraging to see some favorable, long-term trends over the past decade.


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