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TRI National Analysis

Land Disposal

Land disposal includes disposal of TRI chemicals in landfills, underground injection wells, or to other types of containment. Land disposal of chemicals is often regulated by EPA under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

This graph shows the trend in chemicals reported to TRI that were disposed of to land on site. The metal mining sector accounts for most of this disposal.

 

Note: For comparability, trend graphs include only those chemicals that were reportable to TRI for all years presented.

Helpful Concepts

What is underground injection?

Underground injection involves placing fluids underground in porous formations through wells.

What is RCRA Subtitle C Disposal?

The RCRA Subtitle C Disposal category in TRI includes disposal to landfills and surface impoundments authorized to accept hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). RCRA design standards include a double liner, a leachate collection and removal system, and a leak detection system. Operators must also comply with RCRA inspection, monitoring, and release response requirements.

From 2007 to 2019:

  • On-site land disposal increased by 7% (from 2.0 to 2.2 billion pounds).
  • Recent fluctuations were primarily due to changes in TRI chemical quantities disposed of on site to land by metal mines.
  • “All Other Land Disposal" in the figure includes disposal: in landfills and surface impoundments that are not regulated under RCRA Subtitle C; to soil (land treatment/application farming); and any other land disposal. Most of the TRI chemical quantities reported as "other land disposal” were from the disposal of TRI chemicals contained in waste rock at metal mines.

In 2019:

Trends in land disposal were largely driven by the metal mining sector, which accounted for 69% of land disposal quantities. Select the “Land Disposal, Excluding Metal Mining” button to view the land disposal trend without data from metal mines.

  • Most of the land disposal quantities from the metal mining sector were made up of either lead compounds (39%) or zinc compounds (31%).

Metal mining facilities typically handle large volumes of material. In this sector, even a small change in the chemical composition of the mineral deposit being mined can lead to big changes in the amount of TRI-listed chemicals reported. Besides production volume, one factor commonly cited by facilities as a contributor to the changes in quantities of waste managed is the chemical composition of the extracted ore, which can vary substantially from year to year. In some cases, small changes in the ore’s composition can impact whether TRI chemicals in ore qualify for a concentration-based exemption from TRI reporting in one year but not in the next year or vice versa.

Regulations require that waste rock, which contains TRI chemicals, be placed in engineered piles, and may also require that waste rock piles, tailings impoundments, and heap leach pads be stabilized and re-vegetated to provide for productive post-mining land use.

For more information on the mining industry, see the Metal Mining sector profile.

This graph shows the trend in chemicals reported to TRI that were disposed of to land on site, excluding quantities reported by the metal mining sector. The metal mining sector accounts for most of the TRI chemical quantities disposed of to land.

 

Note: For comparability, trend graphs include only those chemicals that were reportable to TRI for all years presented.

From 2007 to 2019:

  • Total on-site land disposal for all industries other than metal mining decreased by 23%.
  • The decrease in land disposal for industries other than metal mining was driven by reduced releases to land from electric utilities, chemical manufacturing facilities, and hazardous waste management facilities.

In 2019:

  • Excluding the quantities of TRI chemicals disposed of on site to land at metal mines, the chemicals disposed of to land in the largest quantities were: barium and barium compounds (17%), manganese and manganese compounds (13%), and zinc and zinc compounds (10%).
  • Excluding the quantities of TRI chemicals disposed of on site to land at metal mines, most land disposal quantities were reported by the chemical manufacturing, electric utilities, primary metals, and hazardous waste management sectors.

This page was published in January 2021 and uses the 2019 TRI National Analysis dataset made public in TRI Explorer in October 2020.

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