Releases into the environment of about 650 toxic chemicals from nearly 25,000 industrial facilities decreased by 1.05 billion pounds, or 15.5 percent, during 2001, according to EPA’s recently released Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data for that year.

Air emissions accounted for 27 percent of the 6.16 billion pounds of TRI chemicals released into the environment or sent off site for treatment or disposal during 2001. Sixty-five percent were discharged to the land on site and off site, four percent were discharged into the water, and four percent were injected underground.

The metals mining industry was the largest source of TRI releases, accounting for 45 percent of the total, followed by the electric utility industry at 17 percent and the chemical industry at 9.5 percent. The 2001 TRI data is available via the Internet at www.epa.gov/tri.

EPA released the 2001 Toxic Release Inventory on June 30th, just one day before the July 1st reporting deadline for 2002 data. According to the advocacy group OMB Watch, TRI release delays prevent information from being used in a more timely and effective manner. Last year, the problem became so bad that John Graham, administrator of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, issued a “prompt letter” to EPA urging the agency to find ways to speed up the annual release of TRI data.

So what happened? The year after that prompt letter, the TRI took longer than ever to be made public. According to EPA, the delay this year was caused by the burdens of the new lead reporting and other changes to the process.