State Sees Jump in Level of Toxic Releases by Industry to Over 30 Million Pounds in 1998

“The state Department of Ecology has released a report that represents what it calls the most comprehensive look yet at the types and amount of chemicals being released into Washington’s environment. A new regulation by the federal Environmental Protection Agency added seven industrial sectors to the types of manufacturers required to report their chemical releases. Companies within the seven new categories are included in Ecology’s new report on toxic releases in 1998. The seven new industrial sectors are:- Metal mining;- Coal mining;- Electric utilities;- Commercial hazardous-waste treatment;- Chemical wholesale distributors; – Solvent recyclers; and,- Wholesale bulk-petroleum distributors. This is the most complete picture we’ve ever had of the chemicals being released into our environment, said Greg Sorlie, who manages Ecology’s hazardous waste and toxics reduction program. We have more data to indicate environmental progress in Washington, and citizens have a better idea of the cumulative releases into their ecosystem. This information helps all of us identify the greatest opportunities for improvements, he said. The 2000 edition of the annual Chemicals in Washington State (formerly called the Toxics Release Inventory) report indicates the amount of toxic contaminants released, excluding the seven new sectors, rose by 1 million pounds, from 24.4 million pounds to 25.4 million pounds, from 1997 to 1998. Factoring in releases from the new industrial sectors raises the reported amount of toxic contaminants released to 30.6 million pounds in 1998. The 5.2 million pounds attributed to the newly reporting sectors are 17 percent of the state’s total reported emissions. The Chemicals in Washington State report lists data on chemical releases to the air, water and soil by manufacturers throughout the state. State law requires manufacturers to report any accidental or one-time releases, along with releases that are allowed under their air, water or hazardous-waste permits. Considering the overall economic and industrial growth in 1998, in addition to the totals from the seven additional industrial sectors, Washington’s chemical releases did not jump significantly, Sorlie said. For 1998, 312 companies reported releasing a total of 22.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals into the air, 4.28 million pounds onto the land, and 3.5 million pounds into the water. Methanol was the most-released chemical, at 5.6 million pounds. Methanol is released into the air primarily from the pulping process at paper mills. Hydrogen fluoride and nitrate compounds were the next-highest chemical releases reported. Paper and allied-products companies reported 11 million pounds of all chemical releases in Washington. They were followed by industries that produce primary metal products, with 5.9 million pounds, and electric-service industries, with 4.5 million pounds. The three facilities with the highest amounts of releases were:- Pacificorp Thermal Plant in Centralia, an electric service, one of the industries reporting for the first time in 1998, with 4.4 million pounds; – Weyerhaeuser in Longview, a paper and allied-products manufacturer, with 3.2 million pounds; and- Kaiser Works in Mead, a primary metal industry, with 2.5 million pounds. In 1998, the largest amount of toxic chemicals released in the state was reported in Cowlitz County, with 4.37 million pounds, a 1.23 million pound decrease from 1997. Other counties reporting more than three million pounds of releases were Lewis and Spokane. Sorlie noted it is important to remember that toxic-release data are limited. The reports identify total releases for more than 600 chemicals identified by Congress as toxic. Other factors to consider are: only annual pounds are reported, not the rate of release, concentration nor size of the facility; the report does not include toxic chemicals introduced through pesticide applications, motor vehicles and wood stoves; and a report of toxic release does not necessarily mean there were toxic effects on humans or the environment. The CIW report can be viewed on the Internet at more information on the report or the chemicals in individual communities, call Ecology’s Hazardous Substance Information Office at 800-633-7585.”