Information about companies’ toxic chemical releases is about to become a lot more public. To promote openness and transparency, the Environmental Protection Agency is releasing the raw, preliminary data behind the Toxics Release Inventory, which typically is published in the beginning of the year.
The Toxics Release Inventory, a database that tracks chemical releases, recycling, energy recovery or treatment at 23,000 industrial facilities, contains information about chemical releases covering calendar year 2008. The data can be viewed here.
Now that the information is out there, companies might expect to be more closely scrutinized by environmental activist organizations and individuals.
“Activist groups and individuals have asked for this,” said Skip Anderson, spokesman for the EPA. “We know there will be holes. It will not be polished. But we see it as a means of transparency.”
Anderson said it would be unwise for groups to use the preliminary data to make unsubstantiated claims about companies.
“The data is preliminary. I don’t know if groups will look at the data and say that somebody is lying. It would be irresponsible to make such a comment until the data is verified,” Anderson said.
The deadline for companies and other organizations to have self-reported their 2008 toxic chemicals releases to EPA was July 1. In a normal year, EPA would spend the next five or six months analyzing the data in advance of the official publication of the TRI.
Posting the information on the Web allows companies the chance to verify that the data was input correctly, Anderson said. “As data is updated throughout the summer and fall, mistakes will be noticed and fixed,” he said.
Preliminary data accounts for up to 85 percent of all data that will go into the full report, which will come out in early 2010, after data has been finalized.
The EPA will update the preliminary data in September and October, according to a press release.
The data can be viewed in three ways:
- Facility Locator Tool: Find facility-specific information on releases of toxic chemicals using a zip code or parts of an address.
- Basic Data: Single downloadable files containing approximately 100 of the most commonly requested data fields.
- Basic Plus Data: Sets of seven downloadable files containing (in aggregate) all data submitted to EPA by facilities.