Chemicals, Hazardous Waste Management

EPA Releases Preliminary 2020 Toxics Release Inventory Data

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently published preliminary 2020 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data about chemical releases, chemical waste management, and pollution prevention activities. The data covers activities that occurred at nearly 21,000 federal and industrial facilities across the U.S., and includes the first-ever reporting on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) added to the TRI by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

“TRI data enhance awareness and help support informed decision-making by companies, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the public when it comes to chemical waste management practices at facilities in our communities,” said EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Michal Freedhoff in a press release. “The data collected, particularly on PFAS and ethylene oxide, are critical to inform and guide EPA’s commitment to protect people from the potential health impacts of these chemicals.”

The data released are for substances included on the TRI list of chemicals and were reported by facilities in certain industry sections, including federal facilities, that manufactured, processed, or otherwise used the TRI-list chemicals above certain quantities last year. The data include quantities of such chemicals that were released into the environment or other managed as waste. Also included are the pollution prevention activities initiated by individual facilities during 2020.

The dataset released is raw data and does not contain any summary or trend analysis, and it has not been through the TRI data quality process, according to the EPA. The agency is conducting additional quality checks on the preliminary data.

The EPA plans to publish the updated TRI dataset this fall to develop the 2020 TRI National Analysis, which it expects to publish in early 2022.

PFAS

The PFAS-related data includes a total of 89 TRI reporting forms for 44 discrete PFAS chemicals filed by 38 individual facilities. The data indicate facilities managed over 700,000 pounds of production-related waste of PFAS during 2020, according to the EPA.

The EPA plans to conduct a review and data checks on the preliminary data to examine the types of facilities that reported and didn’t report, the specific PFAS that were reported and not reported, the information reported, by whom, and the communities in which PFAS are being released or otherwise managed as waste.

As it analyzes the PFAS reporting, the EPA says it will also attempt to provide insights on the seemingly limited scope of the reporting, including the types and number of facilities reporting and PFAS reported. Depending on its findings, the agency will take action as appropriate, which could include compliance assistance, enforcement, or proposing modifications to the TRI reporting requirements for PFAS.

The 2020 TRI National Analysis will include a section that will provide more detailed information, including discussion on the quantities of the PFAS that were released to the environment, recycled, burned for energy recovery or treated; source reduction activities implemented on PFAS; the facilities and sectors that disclosed the information; and the communities in which these activities took place.

The EPA will continue to add PFAS to the TRI per the requirements of the NDAA, according to the release.