Toxic Waste Fell 12 Percent from 2011 to 2012, EPA Says

Mining companies, electric utilities and other industrial facilities reported released fewer toxins into the air, land and water in 2011 and 2012, the EPA said.

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A plume of exhaust rises from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant outside Pittsburgh, Pa., on Sept. 24, 2013. Electric utilities accounted for more than 25 percent of the toxic air emissions reported in the Environmental Protection Agency's 2012 National Toxic Release Inventory.

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The release of toxins like mercury and hydrochloric acid fell by about 12 percent nationwide from 2011 to 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency announced in its National Toxic Release Inventory, which was published online this week.

That amount includes an 8 percent drop in toxic air releases, largely due to fewer hazardous air pollutant emissions. In all, 3.63 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were disposed of or released into the environment through land, air and water, the EPA said.

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Facilities in 26 different industry sectors, from mining and power generation to chemical manufacturing and hazardous waste treatment, must report their toxic releases to the EPA. In 2012, just three of those sectors accounted for two-thirds of the nation’s toxic releases: metal mining made up 40 percent, chemicals 15 percent and electric utilities 14 percent.

Electric utilities, in fact, reported the largest on-site air emissions. They made up more than 25 percent of air emissions from all industries. Metal mining accounted for most of the nation’s on-site land-disposal of toxic chemicals, making up 65 percent of the total.

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More than 21,000 facilities took part in the inventory. About 15 percent said they implemented measures to reduce toxic releases in 2012.

The inventory results can be viewed online and broken down by Zip code, city, county or state.