Wednesday, July 28, 2010

EPA's updated Toxics Release Inventory available online

The Environmental Protection Agency's latest data on industrial releases and transfers of toxic chemicals in the United States--and in your hometown--is now available online. It covers the period between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2009.

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) database contains environmental release and transfer data on nearly 650 chemicals and chemical categories reported to EPA by more than 21,000 industrial and other facilities. 

Using either of two online tools -- TRI Explorer or Envirofacts-- you can learn about releases and transfers of chemicals in your home town --or anywhere else in the U.S.

I tried Envirofacts and found it easy to use.  The amount of information in the database is amazing. You would expect information on major utilities and chemical and petroleum facilities, but you'll also find that the federal law can require submissions from your local gas station, auto body shop, and many other enterprises you might not expect, like schools and various commercial facilities. Envirofacts also includes a rich set of demographic and economic census data about the town you're searching.

Facilities must report their data by July 1st of each year. Because the data is now submitted electronically, it is available for public inspection within weeks of the submission deadline.

What you'll find today represents more than 80 percent of the data expected to be reported for 2009. The   EPA says it will continue to process paper submissions, late submissions, and to resolve issues with the electronic submissions.  The agency will update the data in August and again in September.

The EPA says it encourages the public to review the TRI data while the agency conducts its own analysis, which will be published later this year.

What's your experience, as a business or individual, with the TRI reporting process? Does its value outweigh the time and cost of preparing and submitting the information?  How accurate do you find the data?  Does the information it makes available to anyone about specific facility locations (street addresses and aerial maps) pose an unwarranted security risk?  What else? Let us know.

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