New TRI Data Reveals 21% Decline in Toxic Chemical Releases over 10 Years

March 25, 2024
The EPA released its 2022 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis showing that environmental releases of TRI chemicals from facilities covered by the program were 21% lower in 2022 compared to 2013. This includes a 26% decrease in air releases. During this 10-year period, releases from manufacturing facilities decreased by 9% while the value added to the U.S. economy from manufacturing increased by 14%. While overall releases increased by 1% from 2021 to 2022, there was a 6.5% increase in the number of pollution prevention activities reported under the TRI program compared to 2021.
The 2022 TRI National Analysis summarizes environmental releases of TRI chemicals, as well as how facilities managed their waste. In 2022, facilities reported managing 88.5% of their TRI chemical waste through preferred practices such as recycling, energy recovery and treatment, while releasing 11.5% of their TRI chemical waste into the environment.
“Communities have a right to know how facilities in their backyards might be exposing them to toxic chemicals,” said Assistant Administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Michal Freedhoff. “We are committed to sharing the information we collect from facilities openly and clearly, allowing people to find new ways to use this data to the benefit of us all.”
EPA, states and Tribes receive TRI data from facilities in sectors such as manufacturing, mining, hazardous waste management and electric utilities. More than 21,000 facilities submitted reports on 522 of the 827 chemicals and chemical categories for which TRI reporting is required. The remaining 305 chemicals either were not manufactured, processed or used by facilities required to report to TRI or were not manufactured, processed or used in amounts large enough to trigger reporting.
The 2022 TRI National Analysis features visualizations and analytical tools to make data more useful and accessible to communities. Readers can view data by state, Tribe, metropolitan area, EPA region and watershed using the “Where You Live” mapping tool. This tool also allows readers to view facility locations overlayed with demographic data to identify potential exposure to TRI chemical releases in communities, including overburdened communities. Community groups, policymakers and other stakeholders can use this information, along with other environmental data, to better understand which communities may be experiencing a disproportionate pollution burden and take action at the local level.
Additionally, the 2022 TRI National Analysis highlights trends and changes in waste management practices for specific sectors and chemicals in the Sector Profile and Chemical Profile sections. This year, the 2022 TRI National Analysis highlights the primary metals manufacturing sector alongside the standard profiles for electric utilities, chemical manufacturing and metal mining.
PFAS Reporting
The TRI National Analysis includes reporting on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) as required by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). A provision of the NDAA outlines criteria for additional PFAS to be automatically added for TRI reporting. For reporting year 2022, four PFAS met the criteria and were added to the reporting requirements for a total of 180 PFAS tracked by the TRI program. During 2022, 50 facilities managed 1.2 million pounds of these chemicals as waste, which represents an 8% decrease compared to 2021.
For reporting year 2024, TRI will no longer have a reporting exemption for facilities that use PFAS in small, or de minimis, concentrations as a result of EPA’s recently published final rule. This rule will improve the quality and quantity of publicly available data on PFAS, as many materials used at facilities contain PFAS in low concentrations. Facilities that make or use these products will no longer be able to rely on the de minimis exemption to avoid their responsibility to disclose PFAS releases and other waste management of these chemicals.
Pollution Prevention
Facilities implemented 3,589 total pollution prevention activities in 2022 with the most common being process and equipment modifications, followed by changes to operating practices and training. Through both existing programs and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA offers grant opportunities to state and Tribal technical assistance providers to help prevent pollution.
Industry professionals can view TRI reporting on pollution prevention to learn about best practices implemented at other facilities.
Key Expansions to TRI Reporting
Important expansions to TRI reporting went into effect for reporting year 2022. Some contract sterilization facilities, which are contracted to sterilize products or equipment for hospitals and other facilities, were required to report to TRI for the first time on their management of ethylene oxide and ethylene glycol as waste. These facilities managed 6.3 million pounds of ethylene oxide waste, nearly all of which was treated.
Reporting year 2022 was also the first year of expanded reporting for the natural gas processing sector. The 305 facilities in this sector that reported to TRI managed 115 million pounds of TRI chemicals in waste and disposed of 81% of TRI chemicals in underground injection wells.
Hazardous Waste Violations Lead to $910,985 Fine
The EPA recently finalized a settlement with the Arkansas Midland Railroad Company over alleged hazardous waste violations at a private rail track in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The company illegally stored more than 750,000 gallons of highly flammable hazardous waste in rail cars near homes, a school, and waterways. Under the settlement, the company must pay a civil penalty of $910,985. Under direction from EPA, the waste was removed and disposed of in a permitted facility.
“Residents of Hot Springs or any community should not have to live with the threat of toxic material just steps from their homes and schools,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “EPA and our partners are here to hold companies accountable when they fail to comply with the hazardous waste regulations that keep people and our natural resources safe from exposure and contamination.”
The waste material, o-Chlorotoluene, was stored in up to 34 unsecured, unsupervised rail cars along Spring Street for at least two years. It is classified as a hazardous waste under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) for its highly flammable and toxic properties. EPA worked to ensure the material was removed and shipped to an appropriate disposal facility while settlement negotiations were still ongoing. Fortunately, no evidence of leaks or exposure was found.
The state of Arkansas discovered the backlog of waste material as part of an investigation of another facility and referred the case to EPA. The generator of the waste informed EPA of the rail cars in response to EPA’s formal request for information during the investigation.
Under RCRA, EPA and states with delegated authority enforce requirements regarding the safe handling, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes. RCRA requirements and permits are essential to preventing accidental releases and exposures, and costly cleanups.
Need help determining if you need hazardous waste training? View our YouTube video here: Who needs hazardous waste training?
EPA Reaches Settlement with Resonac America for Illegal Import of Super Climate Pollutant
The EPA announced a settlement with Resonac America Inc. to address the company’s illegal import of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) at the Port of Los Angeles on four occasions in 2023 and 2024. Resonac America, which is a subsidiary of the Tokyo-based Resonac Corporation, will pay a penalty of $416,003 and destroy 1,693 pounds of HFCs to resolve EPA’s allegations of violations.
“EPA continues to prioritize enforcement against companies that illegally import refrigerants that damage our climate and imperil future generations,” said David M. Uhlmann, Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “This case is the largest penalty imposed to date for importing super-polluting HFCs as part of EPA’s National Enforcement and Compliance Initiative on Mitigating Climate Change—and the first to require the company to destroy the HFCs.”
“HFCs are a powerful climate pollutant, so it’s imperative that companies importing them into our nation do so in strict accordance with environmental laws,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “This is the latest in a series of EPA HFC enforcement efforts nationwide, which send a clear message that the federal government is vigilantly monitoring imports of HFCs and will hold illegal actors accountable.”
On three separate occasions – in October, November and December 2023 – Resonac America imported a total of 6,208 pounds of illegal HFCs into the United States at the Port of Los Angeles. These imports violated the prohibition on importing bulk regulated substances into the United States without possessing sufficient consumption or application-specific allowances at the time of import. Resonac America also failed to give EPA the required notice of planned shipments of HFCs for the 2023 shipments and a February 2024 shipment, as well as failed to timely submit reports to the EPA with information on HFCs that the company imported in the first and second quarters of 2023.
Resonac America imported HFC-23 which is a potent greenhouse gas with a 100-year global warming potential of 14,800. This enforcement action prevented approximately 6,208 pounds, or 2.816 metric tons, of illegal HFCs from being imported into the U.S. If released into the atmosphere, these HFCs are the equivalent of 41,676.8 metric tons of CO2, or the same amount of CO2 produced from powering 8,225 homes with electricity for a year.
HFCs are a super climate pollutant with global warming potentials hundreds to thousands of times higher than CO2. For this reason, pursuant to the Montreal Protocol and its Kigali Amendment, production and imports of HFCs are being phased down 85% from historical levels by developed countries by 2036. EPA has made it a national enforcement and compliance priority to address the illegal import of HFCs under the current phasedown and has settled numerous cases over the last several months with companies regarding HFC imports.
The Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, adopted in 2016, is a global agreement to phase down HFCs by 2036 for the United States and other developed countries, and is expected to avoid up to 0.5°C of global warming by 2100.
In response to the Kigali Amendment, Congress passed the bipartisan American Innovation and Manufacturing Act of 2020 (AIM Act), requiring the United States to phase down HFC production and consumption by 85% by 2036. Since January 2022, EPA and CBP have denied entry to approximately 81 shipments of illegal HFCs. Under EPA’s HFC phasedown regulations, importers must expend allowances to import HFCs. Illegal imports of HFCs undermine the phasedown, disadvantage companies who follow the rules, and contribute to global warming.
EPA Releases Draft Risk Evaluation for Formaldehyde
EPA has released a draft risk evaluation for formaldehyde that “preliminarily” determines the chemical presents an unreasonable risk of injury to human health. But the agency states that uncertainties in its findings indicate that the draft evaluation’s estimates of risk may not represent real-life exposures. The uncertainties stem from exposures to naturally occurring formaldehyde and to other sources not covered in the draft document. Following a public comment period and peer review, the document will be revised and finalized, according to EPA.
The draft is confined to considerations stemming from risks of formaldehyde exposure that are subject to the Toxic Substances Control Act. Other exposures, such as from pesticides, are not regulated by TSCA and therefore were not considered in the draft.
Workers are the population most at risk from formaldehyde exposures, EPA finds, including from inhalation and dermal routes. The draft risk evaluation considers workplace exposures without assuming that workers are wearing personal protective equipment although EPA acknowledges that many employers take action to protect their employees.
Consumers who use certain products containing formaldehyde represent another at-risk population. Exposures to formaldehyde can result from use of car waxes, crafting supplies, and fabrics treated with the chemical. Other potential exposures are from furniture and other products in homes, particularly in newer buildings, which release higher levels of formaldehyde.
A virtual public meeting on the draft risk evaluation will be held May 7, and comments are due May 14. Information about how to participate in the public meeting and submit comments is available in the Federal Register. For background information and additional documents, visit the EPA website.
Contractor Ignored Federal Safety Measures in Teenager’s Trench Collapse Death
A Houston-area contractor's willful disregard for required safety procedures contributed to an 18-year-old worker fatality when a 15-foot trench wall collapsed on him near Fulshear in September 2023, a federal investigation has found.
Investigators with OSHA determined that Hurtado Construction Co. allowed the teenager to work in the excavation without a proper protective system in place to prevent its collapse. The young worker suffered fatal injuries when the trench wall caved in, and tons of dirt pinned him against a reinforced concrete box.
In November 2021, OSHA cited the company for failing to use an adequate protective system to safeguard employees from a potentially deadly collapse at another excavation worksite in Katy, continuing a history of workplace safety failures that includes eight OSHA citations for not providing required protective systems after another worker fatality in January 2007.
"Hurtado Construction has routinely ignored its legal responsibility to protect employees' safety and health," explained OSHA Area Director Larissa Ipsen in Houston. "The company's callous disregard has cost a young man his life and left his family, friends and co-workers to grieve a terrible tragedy under circumstances that were completely preventable."
OSHA issued the company one willful citation for allowing employees to work in a trench without adequate protections. The agency also issued five serious citations for Hurtado's failures to do the following:
  • Having someone available to render first aid at the Fulshear site.
  • Providing a ladder for a quick escape.
  • Making employees work in an excavation saturated with water.
  • Improperly using a reinforced concrete box as a protective system during excavation work.
Hurtado Construction Co. faces $257,811 in proposed penalties for its violations. Headquartered in Richmond, Hurtado Construction provides water, sewer and stormwater line installations and repair.
Workplace deaths related to excavation and trenching operations have risen significantly, from 15 worker fatalities in 2021 to 40 worker fatalities in 2022.
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