Toxic Release Inventory

It’s Your Right to Know: The Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis

By Caitlin Briere

In order to make the products on which we depend, like pharmaceuticals, clothing, and other manufactured goods, companies across the U.S. use thousands of chemicals in their normal operations. Many of the chemicals necessary to these economic activities are toxic. While most are managed so that they will not harm the environment, some releases of toxic chemicals occur. You have a right to know what chemicals are being used and released in your community.

A “release” refers to the emission, discharge, or disposal of chemicals by industrial facilities operating under permits designed to protect human health and the environment. Only a very small portion of annual release totals involve accidental releases such as chemical spills. The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) gives people access to data on these chemical releases as well as pollution prevention activities at industrial facilities across the country. I use this data to learn about industrial releases near my home or in a city I’m visiting. I also explore what facilities are doing to prevent pollution and reduce their releases, and how they compare to similar facilities across the US.

Each year, we take a close look at how facilities are managing toxic chemicals, and publish a report called the TRI National Analysis. In addition to providing a printable version of the report, this year we’ve completely redesigned the National Analysis website. You’ll find interlinked chapters that make it easier to navigate between topics, interactive graphics that tell the story of the TRI data, and links to EPA tools and resources that will help you explore EPA’s other environmental information.

I’m most excited about the new “Where You Live” feature, which provides information about chemical releases at local levels as well as national snapshots of releases to air, water, and land in all states. You can also explore analyses of U.S. metropolitan areas, major watersheds, and TRI facilities on Tribal lands. Do you want to know how industrial releases in your city compare to the rest of the country? Are you thinking of moving, and want to check out what facilities might be near your new neighborhood? The interactive maps in the “Where You Live” section can give you these answers.

I hope that you check out the new TRI National Analysis, and use these interactive analyses to find out what chemicals are being released in areas that you care about and what’s being done to prevent releases – because it’s your right to know.

About the author: Caitlin Briere joined EPA’s Office of Information Analysis and Access in 2010. She works on projects that focus on increasing public awareness and use of the TRI data, including the TRI National Analysis and the TRI University Challenge.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Pollution Prevention from Local to National

By Angela Miller

Three years ago I relocated to Washington, DC from Michigan to work for the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR). Growing up along the Lake Michigan shoreline and near several inland lakes nurtured my reverence of nature and its connection to humanity. The community I grew up in was as well known for its natural beauty as it was for its history with pollution and toxic chemicals. Two lakes that are listed as Areas of Concern and a Superfund site all within a short drive of my childhood home inspired me to take up a career in environmental protection.

Working with NPPR, a national member based non-profit which provides a national forum for promoting the development, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to avoid, eliminate, or reduce pollution at the source, has afforded me an opportunity to work on a national level to prevent pollution problems like those that plagued my hometown during my childhood.

NPPR’s projects, especially those of recent, have focused on toxics reduction and elimination.
NPPR was awarded this summer a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant from the U.S. EPA to, among other project tasks, pilot a Safer Chemistry Challenge Program (SPPC) in the Great Lakes region. Another recent project is co-sponsoring the “2012 National Training Conference on the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) and Environmental Conditions in Communities” along with the Environmental Council of States (ECOS) and the U.S. EPA. Our co-sponsorship of this exciting conference provided the context for which EPA’s Office of Environmental Information invited me to participate in this Greenversations Blog. The April 11 – 13, 2012 conference will focus on pollution prevention (P2) and using Toxics Release Inventory data to promote sustainability. A call for abstracts deadline is November 19. Projects such as those bring me back to childhood aspirations to reduce or eliminate toxics that are released in communities to preserve both nature’s splendor and human health.

About the author: Angela Miller is the Deputy Director of the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

My Right-to-Know: Know on the Go

By Pam Russell

Imagine riding along on a sunny day with your window down and suddenly become aware of a nasty smell coming from a industrial plant along the highway. What kind of manufacturing process would result in such a bad smell? What kinds of chemicals are being spewed out and what could that mean to you and your health? What if you could consult your mobile phone to find out more? No, you don’t need to call the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You can learn a lot from EPA’s mobile website, MyRTK (as in, Right to Know), right from your handy web-enabled mobile phone or device.

Take a minute right now so that you will be ready when you see something you want to check. Click on the “apps “tab of EPA’s Mobile home page and select “MyRTK” or you can point your browser to http://m.epa.gov/myrtk. If your device has a GIS chip, click on the map tab to see your current location. If not, use the search feature to find facilities in your neighborhood.

What happens next? You’ll get a screen where you can type in any location. Maybe you’re on the New Jersey Turnpike just past Newark Airport. You could type in “Newark” or “Newark, NJ”. Within just a few clicks, you’ll be able to map and identify the surrounding facilities, the chemicals they handle and what’s in their releases, the potential health effects of those chemicals, and the compliance history of the facilities releasing the chemicals. While the information on facilities and chemical disposals or releases is drawn primarily from the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI data base), facilities with major Air, Water or RCRA (hazardous waste disposal) permits are also mapped. TRI facilities have blue map pins; all others have gray map pins. The information on compliance for all facilities is drawn from the Enforcement and Compliance History Online System.

If you want to report a possible violation or contact someone, click on the “What can I do?” at the bottom of the facility information page for links to EPA’s violation reporting page and information on how to contact state personnel or EPA’s Regional staff.

The MyRTK mobile application is an important advance in giving people access to information. With MyRTK, anyone can easily access information about the surrounding environment and learn what chemicals disposals and releases may mean to their local community.

Feedback on this new application is welcome. Use the “Feedback” button at the bottom of the Facility Information page to send us your comments.

About the author: Pam Russell is a scientist who works on the development of TRI tools in the Office of Environmental Information. She enjoys working on issues that make EPA’s science and information more accessible to the public.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.