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TRI Questions and Answers

Release Date: 5/11/2000
Contact Information:
EPA 303/312-6447,

Release Date: 5/11/2000
Contact Information:
EPA 303/312/6026,

Release Date: 5/11/2000
Contact Information:
EPA 303/312-6603

      ! What is TRI?
The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is an annual report of toxic chemicals released into the environment by businesses throughout the country. It is available so EPA, other levels of government and the public can analyze industries' progress toward reducing pollution. It also allows individuals to monitor chemical releases and waste management activities at facilities located near residential communities.

! Why does EPA require companies to report their toxic releases?
In India, during December 1984, a deadly cloud of methyl isocyanate and other chemicals were released from the Union Carbide pesticide plant after an explosion, killing 3,000 people and injuring 200,000 others. Shortly thereafter a serious chemical release occurred in West Virginia. These incidents fueled demands by industrial workers and communities in several states for information about hazardous materials in their area. As a result, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Section 313 of EPCRA requires specific facilities to annually report on their toxic chemical releases into the air, land and water.

! Are the releases dangerous to communities?
TRI data alone does not tell you whether your health or the safety of your environment are at risk. But in combining TRI data with other information it is possible to estimate whether there is a high, medium or low risk posed by the toxic chemicals in your environment.

! Why should people care about the TRI?
TRI helps communities with emergency planning. In addition, people have a right-to-know what substances companies produce and discharge into their environment. TRI acts as a tool communities can use to discover types and amounts of toxic chemicals released in or near their neighborhoods. If citizens object to chemical releases in their area, they can pressure facilities to use pollution prevention and source reduction techniques to decrease releases.

! Who must report?
A facility is required to report to the EPA and their state government if it has 10 or more employees and exceeds the manufacture, process or otherwise chemical use thresholds for one or more of the over 650 chemicals or chemical compounds specified under EPCRA. The chemical thresholds are 25,000 pounds for chemicals that are manufactured or processed and 10,000 pounds for chemicals that are otherwise used. The companies required to report their releases and waste management activities are designated by the U.S. Government Standard Industrial Classification codes listed below.

> manufacturing facilities described within SIC codes 20 -39.

> Federal facilities.
> metal mining facilities (SIC Code 10, except 1011), coal mines (SIC Code 12, except 1241), electricity generating facilities (SIC Codes 4911 & 4939), petroleum bulk storage facilities (SIC Code 5171), chemical distributors (SIC Code 5169), solvent recovery facilities (SIC Code 7389), and subtitle C TSD facilities (SIC Code 4953).

As a result of a new rule signed in 1997, by EPA’s Administrator, the seven industry sectors shown above (beginning with metal mining) were added to the TRI reporting list in1998. Nationally, this new rule resulted in about 2,000 additional facilities reporting their releases of toxic chemicals to the environment during 1998. Currently, 23,346 facilities nationwide report their releases to their State environmental agencies and EPA.

! What happens to companies that do not report toxic releases or fail to report properly?
EPA may assess civil penalties for reporting violations. Any company owner or operator who violates the law is liable for up to $27,500 a day for each violation. In addition, private citizens may file lawsuits to force a company to obey the law.

! Does EPA use the information contained in the TRI to penalize companies for pollution violations?
No. But EPA can use the data to verify if releases comply with a company's permits for air, waste and water. Also, the Agency uses TRI data to track industries' progress toward cutting or eliminating toxic chemical releases and wastes.

! How does the pollution prevention aspect of the report work and why does EPA require it?
As part of the 1990 Pollution Prevention Act (PPA), facilities must (previously optional) report pollution reduction and prevention activities. EPA added a new section to the standard TRI Form R report. This section requires facilities to report any activities they engage in to reduce pollution sources. It also requires facilities to report total releases; releases from catastrophic events; toxic materials recycled, converted into energy, or treated. This information allows businesses and communities to assess progress made at reducing toxic chemical use and production.

! Has EPA recently added any chemicals to the required reporting list?
In December 1994, EPA added 286 chemicals to EPCRA’s Section 313 list. These chemicals were subject to reporting in the 1995 reporting year. About one-half of these chemicals are pesticides. In addition, several chemicals have been removed from the list since 1993. The chemicals taken off the list include acetone, liquid forms of hydrochloric and sulfuric acid and more recently, phosphoric acid. EPA has also removed individual ammonium compounds from the list, but ammonium compounds are still reportable as ammonia if they dissolve in water to create aqueous ammonia.

! Is EPA changing in any way the requirements associated with reporting Persistent, Bioaccumulative, and Toxic (PBT) chemicals under TRI? If so, what are these changes?
On October 29, 1999, EPA published a final rule which lowers the reporting thresholds for 18 PBT chemicals and adds certain other PBT chemicals to the TRI list. This new rule was effective January 1, 2000 and applies to releases occurring that same year. Those reports must be submitted to the EPA by July 1, 2001.

JOYEL DHIEUX – 303/312-6447
JACK SALTER – 303/312-6026
VAUGHN WHATLEY – 303/312-6603