The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said total toxic air releases in 2011 declined 8 percent from 2010. Air pollution fell even while total releases of toxic chemicals increased for the second year in a row. Electric utilities released 55 million pounds less pollution than recorded in the previous year’s report.
The emissions information is published in the 2011 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) National Analysis. TRI data are submitted annually to EPA, states and tribes by facilities in industry sectors such as manufacturing, metal mining, electric utilities, and commercial hazardous waste facilities.
Hydrochloric acid and mercury are two sources of air pollution that fell from 2010 to 2011. Likely reasons for the decreases seen over the past several years include installation of control technologies at coal fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.
The 2011 TRI data show that 4.09 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment (i.e., air, water or land), an 8 percent increase from 2010.
According to the report, electric utilities released a total of 257.8 million pounds of air pollution. This represents a 12 percent decrease from the previous year’s report. Electric utilities reported the second largest disposal or other releases of any industry sector for 2011.
In the electric utilities sector, 4 percent of facilities reported having initiated practices to reduce their toxic chemical use and waste generation through source reduction activities in 2011. The most commonly reported source reduction activities for the sector were good operating practices and process modifications.
Among the hazardous air pollutants showing declines were hydrochloric acid and mercury, which EPA attributed to improved pollution control technologies at coal-fired power plants and a shift to other fuel sources.
Outgoing EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said the agency’s annual toxic release inventory has recorded a steady decline in chemicals emitted into the air since 1998.