Over the last decade chemicals released to the environment have decreased, according to the latest Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) prepared by the Department of Environmental Quality. For 2016, DEQ reports 909.07 million pounds of chemicals were managed on-site, transferred off-site or released to the environment by Virginia industries.
Each year, under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act, DEQ compiles information on dozens of chemicals released by facilities in Virginia.
Chemical releases are managed under a wide variety of environmental permits, which ensure that people and the environment are protected. Between 2003 and 2016, the amount of chemicals released decreased by 44.7 percent. “This downward trend reflects the growing commitment to eliminate or reduce waste at the source of generation,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said. “Virginia continues to grow, yet the trend is positive as all sectors of Virginia’s government, businesses, industries and citizens adopt pollution prevention as an everyday approach.”
Compared to 2015, this year’s data represents an increase of 5.8 percent in the amount of chemicals being released or managed on-site through treatment or recycling. The data also show a decrease in the chemicals being transferred off-site for treatment.
The 2016 report, which contains the most recent information available from Virginia facilities, includes these findings:
*35.82 million pounds of chemicals were released on-site to the air, water and land.
*65.40 million pounds of chemicals were transferred off-site for treatment, recycling, energy recovery or disposal.
*808.84 million pounds of chemicals were managed on-site by treatment, recycling or energy recovery.
The report addresses separately those chemicals the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has designated as Persistent Bio-accumulative Toxins (PBTs). These chemicals remain in the environment for long periods, are not readily destroyed, and build up or accumulate in body tissue. On-site releases of these chemicals totaled 190,961 pounds in 2016.
DEQ, through its Virginia Environmental Excellence Program, uses incentives and assistance efforts to promote environmental stewardship beyond regulatory compliance. A facility applying to the program must have a good record of sustained regulatory compliance and an environmental management system or documented commitment to environmental sustainability. The goal is to help develop more-efficient technologies and business operations by reducing the amount of chemicals released to the environment and improving how the chemicals are managed, along with better managing solid waste and conserve energy and water use.
The 2016 TRI report is available on the DEQ website at www.deq.virginia.gov. Information on releases from 2017 is due to DEQ this summer and will be available to the public in early 2019.
-Submitted by Ann Regn, VA Department of Environmental Quality