Toxic Releases in California Increased 10% in 2011

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Major industrial sectors in California released 10% more toxics into the air, water and land in 2011 than the year before, according to an annual report released by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The EPA's Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), using data gathered from 1,265 state facilities, calculated that 38.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released on-site in 2011. Many of the releases from TRI facilities are regulated under various EPA programs. Data was gathered by mid-2012 and published at the beginning of this year.

Releases into the air actually decreased about 10% (1 million pounds) from the year before, but water releases were up 10% (258,000 pounds), on-site land rose 9% (2 million pounds), underground injection decreased 67% (2.5 million pounds) and off-site transfers were down 72% (2.5 million pounds).

The hazardous waste/solvent recovery industry accounted for 35% of the releases, followed by petroleum (16%), federal facilities (12%), metal mining (7%), primary metals (7%) and all other (23%).

Clean Harbors Buttonwillow LLC was the clear toxic releases leader, nearly tripling its nearest competitor with 9.9 million pounds of gunk. The commercial hazardous waste storage, treatment and disposal facility near Bakersfield in Kern County released about 2.5 times more toxics than the U.S. Marine Corps Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range near Niland in Imperial County.   

Copper and copper compounds are the most common toxic release, followed by nitrate compounds, lead and lead compounds, asbestos and ammonia.

The EPA established more stringent reporting requirements for persistent bioaccumulative toxic (PBT) chemicals in 2000 because of particular concern about their staying power in the environment. They are not easily destroyed and build up in body tissue. They include mercury, dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls, but lead and lead compounds are overwhelmingly the largest source.

Releases of PBTs were up 24% since 2010. Mesquite Mine near Brawley in Imperial County tops the list of facilities releasing PBTs.

The Top 10 facilities in California for 2011 based on total releases (in pounds) of toxic materials were:

Company City County Total Releases
Clean Harbors Buttonwillow LLC  Buttonwillow Kern 9,861,640
US Marine Corps - Chocolate Mountains Aeirial Gunnery Range Niland Imperial 3,903,712
Chemical Waste Management Inc. Kettleman City Kings 3,901,513
Mesquite Mine Brawley Imperial 2,583,483
Chevron Products Co. Div. of Chevron USA Inc. El Segundo Los Angeles 1,772,493
Quemetco Inc. City of Industry Los Angeles 1,576,634
SGL Technic Inc. Polycarbon Div. Santa Clarita Los Angeles 1,332,051
ConocoPhillips - San Francisco Refinery Rodeo Contra Costa 896,733
BP West Coast Products LLC - Carson BP Carson Refinery Carson Los Angeles 579,055
Valero Refining Co. - California Benicial Refinery Benicia Solano 504,472


The Top 10 chemicals released (in pounds) in the state in 2011 were:

Chemical Total Releases
Copper & Copper Compounds 5,630,344
Nitrate Compounds 5,073,831
Lead and Lead Compounds 4,887,617
Asbestos (Friable) 3,209,127
Ammonia 2,813,077
Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether 1,884,235
Styrene 1,219,474
Zinc & Zinc Compounds 1,198,390
N-Hexane 1,165,769
Toluene 1,124,466

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Toxics Release Inventory 2011 California Report (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

EPA’s 2011 Toxics Release Inventory Shows Air Pollutants Continue to Decline (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)

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