The Bay states have hit their goal - three years ahead of schedule - of reducing toxics releases within the watershed by 65 percent. A Bay Program analysis of data from the EPA's Toxics Release Inventory shows that 100.3 million pounds of toxic chemical releases were reported in 1995, the most recent year for which information is available.
That's a drop of 66 percent from 1988, the baseline year for measuring the Bay Program reduction goal. Nationwide, releases reported on the annual TRI survey fell 46 percent during the same period.
"It's great news that we achieved this goal ahead of schedule," said Kelly Eisenman, toxics coordinator with the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program Office.
"But the challenge is going to be to maintain this reduction in releases."
Eisenman noted that most of the decreases came in the early years of the reporting system as companies implemented many of the easiest reductions.
The rate of decline has leveled out in more recent years.
The 1995 data shows that the majority of reported chemical releases in the watershed, 59 million pounds, went into the air. By comparison, 1.1 million pounds were released into waterways, and 3.6 million pounds were released to land. About 36.4 million pounds were transferred off the facility's site.
The Bay Program goal was met despite a new analysis which found that the number of facilities that filed TRI reports within the watershed had previously been undercounted.
Using better locational information, the new analysis discovered that about 130 previously uncounted facilities were actually located within the watershed. Using that information, they reanalyzed the release data for each year back to 1988 to come up with the new figures.
As it turned out, Eisenman said, the newly incorporated facilities had made significant reductions in their toxics releases which helped contribute to the early attainment of the goal.
When the 1988-95 database was adjusted to include the previously overlooked facilities, it still showed that releases had declined from 292.5 million pounds in 1988 to 100.3 million pounds. Also, the number of facilities filing TRI reports had dropped from 1,003 facilities to 899, apparently because many had fallen below the minimum threshold for filing the reports.
"That, to me is good news," Eisenman said. "They're getting their releases down" Major manufacturers are required to report releases and transfers of certain chemicals under the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. Manufacturers must report releases of listed chemicals if they have 10 or more full-time employees and process 25,000 pounds - or use more than 10,000 pounds - of any chemical on the TRI list during the calendar year.
The Bay Program analysis did not include the 286 additional chemicals that the EPA required companies to begin supplying data on in 1995. Rather, the analysis included only chemicals that were on the TRI list from 1988 through 1995.
Eisenman said that with the toxics goal met, the Bay Program will probably set a new reduction goal, and the new objective may include reductions in those additional chemicals.
Other potential goals, she said, might include additional reductions from the 1988 baseline, or goals to increase the recycling and reuse of chemicals on the TRI list.
The new objectives will be determined over the course of the next two years as the Bay Program undertakes a reevaluation of its toxics reduction strategy.
Eisenman said businesses would be included in discussions about any new goal that is established.
While the Bay Program has used the TRI as a tool to help measure toxic control efforts within the watershed, the inventory was started by the EPA to provide communities and citizens information about toxic chemicals in their areas.
Making such data public has been credited with spurring sharp reductions in toxics releases nationwide and within the watershed. The data, though, do not provide information about the degree of risk posed by any chemical releases.
Nationwide, 22,000 facilities filed TRI reports in 1995, and they released a total of 2.2 billion pounds of chemicals.
For more information
To request copies of TRI documents, or to get more information about the program, call the Emergency Planning and Community right-to-Know Information Hotline at 1-800-424-9346.