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Reporting of Major Pollution Sources Shows Continued Reductions in Massachusetts - Latest Toxic Release Data Confirms Previous Trends

Release Date: 04/12/2006
Contact Information: David Deegan, (617) 918-1017

(Boston, Mass. - April 12, 2006) - Releases of toxic chemicals into the environment by industrial sources in the New England states continue to decline, show the most recent data reported to EPA. The most recent data show that releases in Massachusetts also continued a downward trend.

EPA has released the latest data from the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) for 2004. This information, released each year to the public and communities throughout the U.S., covers chemical releases to air, water and land by power plants, manufacturers and other facilities which employ ten or more workers and exceed thresholds for chemicals.

“Here in New England, we’re seeing that economic growth and effective environmental protection can go hand-in-hand,” said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator for EPA's New England regional office. “The latest TRI data show that we have declining levels of emissions of chemicals to our air, soil and water, even as our economy continues to grow."

The list of chemicals emitted, and facilities required to report, has been significantly expanded in the past 17 years. When the program was mandated by Congress in 1988, reporting was required for 296 chemicals, as opposed to 650 chemicals and chemical compounds which are reported today. For example, reporting now includes persistent and bio-accumulative chemicals such as dioxins, lead and mercury.

Even with the expanded reporting, both near- and long-term trends show reductions in toxic releases into the environment. During 2004, the latest year for which data are available, approximately 24.7 million pounds of chemicals were released in the six New England states, a reduction of about 700,000 pounds. In Massachusetts, releases in 2004 were approximately 6.4 million pounds (a reduction of about half a million pounds). Of Massachusetts’ releases, 93 percent were emitted to the air during 2004.

Reporting includes both information on chemicals released at a company's facility, as well as those transported to disposal facilities off site. TRI data do not reflect the relative toxicity of the chemicals emitted or potential exposure to people living in a community with reported releases. TRI data also does not indicate illegal discharges of pollutants to the environment. Yearly releases can vary due to factors such as power outages, production variability, etc., that do not reflect a facility’s pollution prevention program(s).

The top five chemicals released to the environment during 2004 in Massachusetts were:

- Hydrochloric Acid 2004 releases = 2,187,134 lbs. 2003 releases = 2,453,593 lbs.
- Ammonia 2004 releases = 670,103 lbs. 2003 releases = 706,276 lbs.
- Zinc Compounds 2004 releases = 568,012 lbs. 2003 releases = 466,954 lbs.
- Toluene 2004 releases = 469,985 lbs. 2003 releases = 456,666 lbs.
- Sulfuric Acid 2004 releases = 400,942 lbs. 2003 releases = 395,335 lbs.

Massachusetts’ five largest on- and off-site environmental releases reported under TRI for 2004 were:

Pounds Environmental Releases
Dominion Energy, Brayton Point, Somerset
Somerset Power, Somerset
Mirant Canal LLC, Sandwich
Dominion Energy, Salem Harbor Station, Salem
Mt. Tom Station, Holyoke

Nationwide, EPA’s 2004 TRI reporting includes toxics managed in landfills in addition to those released into water and air and releases or other disposals of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) chemicals. PBT chemicals include dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, PCBs, mercury and mercury compounds, lead and lead compounds, and several pesticides.

Across the country, the amount of toxic chemicals released into the environment has declined 45 percent since 1998. Significant decreases were seen in some of the most toxic chemicals from 2003-2004.

- Dioxin and dioxin compounds, which decreased by 58 percent,
- Mercury and mercury compounds, which were cut by 16 percent and
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) went down 92 percent.

Over the past several years, EPA has made concerted efforts to provide TRI data to the public more rapidly. In 2004, ninety percent of companies used electronic reporting, which streamlined the process significantly. Facility-specific data was released last November and the full national data released today.

TRI reporting is required under the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986. Reported information provides the amount, location and type of release to the environment - whether a pollutant is emitted into the air, discharged into the water, or released onto the land. It also includes information on waste shipped off-site for disposal or further treatment. The TRI has been credited with encouraging facilities to reduce their releases of toxic chemicals into the environment through source reduction and pollution prevention measures.

Specific information is available at: .

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