Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Toxic releases increase in Washington while some industries reduce emissions

By Erika Holmes, Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction Program

Releases of toxic chemicals in Washington increased in 2012, according to data reported annually to the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology). The data is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report. Ecology works with reporting facilities to find ways to reduce toxic releases.

The annual TRI report provides key information about toxic releases to air, land, and water in our communities. Most of these releases are planned and managed, though some are accidental. TRI is a publicly available database of detailed information on nearly 650 chemicals disposed or otherwise released by nearly 21,000 industrial and federal facilities nationwide.

Washington's 2012 Report

In 2012, 310 Washington facilities reported releasing 19.6 million pounds of toxic chemicals to air, land, or water. Half of these releases were to air. Toxic releases in Washington increased 1.1 percent from 2011 to 2012.
2012 Toxic Releases in Washington
More facilities are managing their waste on-site instead of disposing of it off-site. Washington facilities recovered 60.5 million pounds of waste for on-site energy, increasing 356 percent from 2011. On-site recycling and treatment also increased, reducing the pollution, cost of transportation, and risk of spills associated with moving waste off-site.

“Although we never want to see an increase in toxic releases, we are encouraged that some facilities reduced emissions through process improvement,” said K Seiler, who manages Ecology’s Hazardous Waste and Toxics Reduction Program. “Ecology works hard to create meaningful partnerships with industries to help them reduce or eliminate the use of toxics, often at a savings to the business.”

Two facilities stood out for cutting their toxic releases:

  • Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) reduced ammonia emissions to the air at its Aberdeen plant by more than half.  SPI, a wood products company, generates renewable electricity by burning wood waste from its sawmill to power steam turbines. To reduce nitrogen oxide emissions, the company injects ammonia into the exhaust gases. Too much ammonia is itself a challenge, however, so in 2010 SPI began installing monitoring equipment to ensure it is using just the right amount. The new equipment allowed SPI to cut its ammonia emissions from 87,377 pounds in 2011 to 42,825 pounds in 2012.
  • Tesoro Refining & Marketing installed emissions control equipment on their stacks, decreasing sulfuric acid aerosols reaching the air. By doing so, the company reduced those emissions from 158,095 pounds in 2011 to 120,091 pounds in 2012.
Ecology leads the state’s efforts to reduce toxics in our air, land, and water by:
To learn more about Washington’s 2012 TRI data, please visit Ecology’s 2012 Washington Toxics Release Inventory web page. You may also contact Ecology’s TRI Coordinator, Diane Fowler at (360) 407-6171.  

Find out more about toxic chemicals in your community – it’s your right to know!

You can access EPA’s data about releases of toxic chemicals to better understand the types and amounts of releases and the potential related risks in your community. TRI is an especially important data source for environmental releases of chemicals of particular concern, such as mercury, dioxins, and other persistent, bio-accumulative, toxic (PBT) chemicals. 

Access TRI data online

Envirofacts provides access to TRI and other EPA databases that contain information about environmental activities that can affect air, water, and land anywhere in the United States. Use Envirofacts to learn more about these environmental activities in an area or generate maps of environmental information.

TRI Explorer is a searchable database of TRI data to help communities identify facilities and chemical releases or other waste management activities that warrant further study and analysis. Combined with hazard and exposure information, the TRI Explorer can be a valuable tool for identifying potential chemical hazards in communities.

The Risk Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) provides information about risks to human health related to potential exposures to TRI chemicals. RSEI is a screening-level model that combines TRI information on the amount of toxic chemical releases with other risk factors to help assess the relative hazard and risk of chemicals, facilities and industries.

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