Recent data from the federal Toxics Release Inventory, which includes a section on the Columbia River basin, shows that toxic chemical releases rose in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, says the Environmental Protection Agency.
The 2010 TRI National Analysis shows that TRI releases rose 16 percent across the nation between 2009 and 2010, reversing a downward trend from recent years.
Similarly, toxic chemicals releases rose in all four EPA Region 10 states (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington) compared to 2009.
This year, almost 90 percent of all TRI chemical releases in Region 10 are attributed to the metal mining industry in Alaska. Throughout the region, the mining industry increased reported releases by 19 percent compared to 2009. Increases reported from metal mines can be due to increased production, variations in ore composition, or changes in production processes.
The 2010 TRI reports how over 600 chemicals on the TRI list were managed, where they ended up, and how 2010 releases compare to 2009.
-- In Alaska, 32 facilities reported a total of 835 million pounds of toxic chemical releases, an increase of 20 percent.
-- In Idaho, 95 facilities reported a total of 67 million pounds of toxic chemical releases, an increase of 17 percent.
-- In Oregon, 271 facilities reported a total of 18 million pounds of toxic chemical releases, an increase of 20 percent.
-- In Washington, 304 facilities reported a total of 20 million pounds of toxic chemical releases, an increase of 27 percent.
For the Columbia River basin, the report said, “Recent studies and monitoring programs have found significant levels of toxic chemicals in fish and the waters they inhabit, including DDT, PCBs, mercury, dioxins, and other anthropogenic toxic chemicals.
“According to EPA Region 10's ‘Columbia River Basin Toxics Reduction Action Plan,’ such accumulation of toxics in fish threatens the species, and human consumption of fish with significant body burdens of toxics can lead to health problems.
“In 2010, some of the largest sources of TRI chemicals in the Columbia River Basin included the land disposal of manganese, copper, lead and zinc and other metals from metal mines. Runoff from these areas, as well as wastewater effluent from numerous pulp and paper mills, is associated with degraded water quality. Hazardous waste management facilities had on-site land disposal, primarily of zinc and lead and their compounds. On-site land disposal or other releases accounted for 81 percent of total on-site disposal or other releases in the Columbia River Basin in 2010. They decreased by 5 percent from 2001 to 2010, but increased by 7 percent from 2009 to 2010.”
Air releases in the Columbia River basin “accounted for 14 percent of total on-site disposal or other releases in 2010. They decreased by 43 percent from 2001 to 2010 but increased by 10 percent from 2009 to 2010. The primary sources of air releases were pulp and paper mills, mainly consisting of methanol, and food processors and chemical manufacturers, mainly consisting of ammonia.”
Surface water discharges in the Columbia Basin “were 5 percent of total on-site disposal or other releases in 2010. They decreased by 51 percent from 2001 to 2010, including a 9 percent decrease from 2009 to 2010. The food processing industry accounted for half of the surface water discharges in 2010, almost all of which was nitrate compounds.”
More details on the Columbia River Basin TRI can be found at http://www.epa.gov/tri/tridata/tri10/nationalanalysis/tri-lae-columbia.html
“The availability of this data allows the public to have better information when they engage with industry and the government,” said Ed Kowalski, EPA’s Director of the Office of Compliance and Enforcement in Seattle. “You can see trends at the national and statewide levels, and you can monitor what is happening in your ZIP code.”
A TRI chemical ’release’ is the amount of a toxic chemical that a facility disposes of, or discharges to the environment. The actions that facilities take to dispose of or release TRI chemicals are generally regulated under other environmental laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, or the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. TRI data do not include information about public exposure to chemicals.
Reports that show TRI data broken out by industry, chemicals, and facilities for Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington: www.epa.gov/region10/tri/2010data.html