EPA's outgoing Administrator Lisa Jackson said, "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. 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.
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 -- which EPA understands is one of the asserted reasons for the increase in total reported releases -- 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 indicated that it 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 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 are required to 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.