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E-M:/ TRI - The Whole Story

Below is the MDEQ Press Release on Toxic Release Inventory Data (TRI).  I have tried to fill in the blanks to give what I think is a more accurate picture of Michigan use of toxic chemicals.  We are disappointed that even the MDEQ web site does not include the compiled data on which this press release is based. 

"Better Service for a Better Environment"

INTERNET: www.deq.state.mi.us

Contact: Ken Silfven (517) 241-7397

Resource contact: Robert Jackson 517) 373-2731

Toxic chemical emissions from Michigan industries continue to decline,
falling by 10 percent during the three most recent reporting years,
according to Department of Environmental Quality Director Russell Harding.

The finding is based on Michigan's Toxic Chemical Release Inventory data
for 1998, the most recent reporting year. Seven additional non-manufacturing
industrial sectors were required by the federal government to report for
the first time. They are not, however, factored into the 1998 analysis since no
valid comparison can be made with first-year data.

[The is a classic example of the MDEQ overstating what the data actually shows.  Yes, direct releases from the manufacturing plant sector of Michigan industries has shown some declines but that is only 82 million pounds of the 538 million pounds of total releases and off-site transfers that were reported in 1998 (or 15% of the total universe of toxic chemicals used and discarded).]  

"We're seeing the fruits of Michigan's regulatory vigilance and educational
outreach," Harding said. "Pollution-prevention practices are becoming
ingrained within the regulated community. Coupled with adherence to
regulations, these voluntary initiatives are having a measurable impact on
the health of our environment. To achieve several consecutive years of
decreasing releases, particularly during a thriving economy, is an
impressive feat."

[What data is the department referring to when it says that reductions in the manufacturing sector are having a  "measurable impact on the health of our environment"?  I note that the Michigan Environmental Science Board in its recent report on protecting children's health noted "The Panel recognizes that the science behind assessing such risks [multiple media exposures] is not well developed and that is may be difficult currently to account for the risk associated with mixtures and multiple exposures in regulations and rules.]

Michigan facilities reported total on-site and off-site releases of 82
million pounds in 1998, not counting releases from the new reporting
sectors. That's a 2 percent drop from the 84 million pounds of toxic
chemicals released in 1997 and a 10 percent decrease from the 91 million
pounds reported in 1996. Off-site releases are those that are transferred
for disposal.

[What the department fails to mention is the corresponding increases in off-site transfers to Publicly Owned Treatment Works ( POTW), and other treatment and disposal facilities.  These increased from 207 million pounds in 1996 to 223 million pounds in 1997 (a 7% increase).  No figures are provided for off-site transfer in 1998 from those companies that reported in 1996 and 1997.  The figure in 1998 with the new industries is a staggering 399 million pounds.]

>From 1997 to 1998, air emissions have declined from 45 million pounds to
40 million pounds. Water discharges fell from 717,000 pounds to 480,000

[This is the good news.  Direct emissions to our air and water are the exposure paths that can most quickly effect human health.  My only question is whether transfers to POTW that are subsequently released into the waters of the state are included anywhere?]  

Releases to underground injection wells dropped from 2.3 million pounds to
2.1 million pounds.

[Note, the Site Review Board last night recommended denial of the siting of the commercial deep well injection site in Romulus.  Unless, Director Russ Harding decides to overrule this board that represent citizens and the science community this category should continue to shrink.  If not, watch this category grow.]

Total off-site transfers for further waste management increased by 6
percent from 1996 to 1998, and combined releases and transfers increased by 0.9

[So buried toward the bottom is some of the truth without hard numbers to verify the math.  Off-site transfers in 1996 were 207 million pounds.  A six percent increase would take the state to 219.5 million. And a 0.9 percent increase from total releases and transfers would take the state to total releases and transfers of 301 million pounds. Are those the numbers?]

Sixty-one new facilities reporting for the first time in 1998 cover such
industrial sectors as metal mining; coal mining; electrical utilities;
treatment, storage and disposal facilities; solvent recovery services;
chemical distributors; and petroleum bulk terminals.

[Finally some of the loopholes start to close.  Note, at least two of these categories are the recipients of waste from other companies (this allows the manufacturing plants to reduce emissions and have others release it for them).  Total on and off site releases in 1998 - 139 million pounds (55 million pounds more than 1997, a 64% increase).  Total transfers for further waste management in 1998 - 399 million pounds (176 million pounds more than 1997 - 78% increase).  Total releases plus transfers in 1998 - 538 million pounds (231 million pounds more than 1997 - 75% increase).]

More than 900 Michigan facilities total reported under the 1998 Toxic
Release Inventory. Michigan is one of several states maintaining its own
comprehensive TRI database. It is available on the DEQ's Internet home page
at http://www.deq.state.mi.us/ead/sara.

[The whole story is that our state still utilizes and releases massive amounts of toxic chemicals and the risks from exposure from multiple media exposures is not required by industry and may (or may not) be exposing Michigan's residents to a unacceptable risk.  The question the Michigan Environmental Council poses is why are we the guinea pigs?  We believe the data shows that state should be much more aggressive in assessing the risks from multiple sources, and reducing the use and release of toxic chemicals into our environment.]

James Clift, Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Ste. 2a
Lansing, MI 48912
(517) 487-9539