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EPA Gives Public Picture of New York's Environmental Releases; Many New Industry Groups, Including Utilities, Report Toxic Releases for First Time – Data Show Improvements
Release Date: 05/11/2000
|(#00087) New York, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued its report on the 1998 releases of toxic chemicals into New York State’s environment by industrial and other facilities. The information, which is compiled annually by EPA in a Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), is released to the public to help Americans know more about the chemicals present in their local environment and to ensure that, with the knowledge of the chemicals present at certain industrial facilities, communities are ready to handle emergency situations should they arise. The 1998 report features information on toxic releases from several new industry groups including coal and oil combusting electrical utilities and metal mining operations.
Without considering releases from newly added industries, toxic releases in New York State of the over 600 chemicals and chemical categories currently tracked by TRI were down from approximately 30.78 million pounds in 1997 to 29.88 million pounds in 1998. Industries that were required to report for the first time in 1998 added another approximately 34.89 million pounds to the 1998 toxic releases reported in New York State. This new information does not suggest that the state of the environment in 1998 was worse than previous years. The addition of data from new facilities required to report simply gives EPA and the public a more accurate picture of the amount of toxic pollutants being emitted into the state’s air, water and land than in years past. In New York, the additional 34.89 million pounds of toxic releases reported were due in large part to the inclusion for the first time of electrical utilities, metal mines and hazardous waste treatment facilities.
"Every year that EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory program includes more information, the public benefits," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "In New York, the 1998 data brings good news on two fronts. First, when using the same yardstick we have used since 1995, the environment received approximately 900,000 fewer pounds of toxic chemicals than it did in 1997. Second, the addition of an enormous amount of new information from industry provides the public with a better of idea of what is happening in their local environment, and puts a bright spotlight on the environmental records of these newly reporting industries. Over time, we expect to see the same decrease in toxic emissions from these newly reporting industries as we have seen from industries that have reported under the TRI program for the past ten years."
When New York State’s 1998 toxic release figures -- including figures from the new industries -- are compared to figures from 1988, the year the TRI program first began, a dramatic decrease in toxic releases can be seen. In 1988, companies were required to report releases of only 357 toxic chemicals and chemical categories – nearly half of those EPA requires companies to report today. Even so, the 1988 data shows that New York State companies released 112.3 million pounds of those 357 toxic chemicals into the air, soil, and water that year – 1.7 times the amount reported for twice as many chemicals from many more industries in 1998.
As a response to the tragic chemical-release accident in Bhopal, India, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA) in 1986. EPCRA requires federal, state and local governments to have emergency plans in place to deal with potential chemical accidents or releases at certain facilities, and requires many industries and companies to file reports annually with the government about the toxic substances they emit into the environment. These reports are compiled into the national Toxic Release Inventory and made available to the public every year. Companies that have been required to file TRI data since the program began in 1988 include chemical, metals, plastics and paper manufacturers, petroleum refineries, and many other manufacturing industries. The seven new industry groups added for 1998 are: metal mining, coal mining, electrical utilities that combust coal and/or oil, hazardous waste treatment and disposal facilities, chemical wholesale distributors, petroleum bulk plants and terminals, and solvent recovery services.
The top five chemicals released into the environment by facilities in New York State in 1998 were:
Of the 737 facilities in New York state that filed 1998 TRI data, the five facilities with the most toxic chemical releases into the local environment were (in descending order):