Skip to content

Definitional Issues

2010 May 28

Industry representatives stated there are a number of definitional issues that should be addressed in a rulemaking to clarify areas of uncertainty.  These include the issues discussed in key court cases as well as a number of others.

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.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Adam Burke (Abt Associates) permalink
    October 27, 2009

    I have provided TRI training to facilities for the past seven years and based on conversations I’ve had with people in the mining industry, I would say that there appears to be a real need for more clarification, outreach, and explicit guidance regarding what constitutes manufacturing and processing of TRI chemicals by these facilities. There doesn’t seem to be universal agreement by facilities on how to interpret the court’s ruling on this. And, some facilities feel that those toxic chemicals that are naturally occurring in the mined material don’t need to be considered towards any thresholds, which is generally not how EPA sees it. I’m surprised that there aren’t more comments posted on this issue, as I know that there are mining representatives out there who feel strongly about clarifying these issues.

  2. Damien Borg permalink
    October 28, 2009

    From reading the EPA’s website, it seems that the Toxic Release Inventory is a broad brush coving “toxic chemicals being released into the environment;” however, after reading Court decisions and the National Mining Associations parsing of the decisions, it becomes apparent that the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know has become limited in its scope. When discussing the TRI, the EPA should use a definition similar to TENORM; i.e. “TENORM is produced when activities … concentrate or expose … materials that occur naturally in ores …. (EPA website October 28, 2009), or to put it another way, any time the earth is disturbed for mining, all the toxic materials released are counted. This should include; dust, leachate, waste rock piles and tailings ponds.

  3. Brian Turnbaugh, OMB Watch permalink
    November 24, 2009

    If the agency decides to address definitional issues in a rulemaking, it should recognize the importance TRI plays in raising public awareness about the roles various industries play in the spread of toxic substances throughout the environment. The public has a right to know about the potential impacts to the environment caused by industrial activities. Citizens should not be denied access to this information as the result of excessively narrow definitions or semantic contrivances. Any clarification of definitions should be certain to encompass all releases resulting from mining activities – if a release would not have occurred without the actions of a mining operation, then the release should be reported. Otherwise, the public will be denied the comprehensive data expected from the TRI program.

  4. Southeast Alaska Conservation Council permalink
    November 25, 2009

    Problem: Toxins identified on the TRI list from froth floatation ore processing facilities may be included in tailings streams and designated as “fill material” to avoid NPDES limits. A toxic release cannot be ignored because of a definitional change turns a natural body of water into a tailing storage facility.

    Solution: Beneficiated waste from mine processing needs to be redefined as “pollutants” as in the original intent of the CWA and placed back under the jurisdiction of the EPA section 402. Slurries containing this material, regardless of the percentage of solids, should not be classified as “fill material”. Rescind the Regas Memorandum, dated May 17, 2004. This would bring consistency to the EPA’s finding that tailings and byproducts are not exempt from the TRI reporting requirements (1997).

    Problem: Waste material containing toxins is excluded from federal hazardous waste regulations under Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. The original 6 waste streams granted exclusion in 1978 has now grown to 20. This is contrary to the intent of the CWA and Community Right to Know.
    Solution: No hazardous material should be exempt from monitoring and reporting. Asking for and receiving exemptions allows industry to question whether TRI is driving any environmental improvement.

Leave a Reply

Note: You can use basic XHTML in your comments. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS