Minnesota companies report their toxic chemical releases

Most of 3M's toxic releases come from their Cottage Grove plant.
Most of 3M’s toxic releases come from their Cottage Grove plant.

Each year the Environmental Protection Agency produces something called the Toxic Release Inventory. It’s an outgrowth of two congressional actions: the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act and the Pollution Prevention Act.

By now you probably get the idea: it’s a look at who is producing, processing, and using toxic chemicals and where. These are self-reported estimates. A “release” can include everything from a leak to chemicals sent off-site for disposal or recycling and does not neccesarily imply anything illegal.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety releases a summary of the data, and they’ve just released their summary of 2009 releases. All told, toxic chemical releases were down 10 percent over 2008. When all releases are added up, Minnesota facilities were responsible for 154,533,175 pounds of toxic chemicals.

Who reported the highest releases? I’ve grouped them by parent company:

Koch Industries (37,725,471 pounds)
Koch owns Flint Hills Resources which produces gasoline, diesel, propane, asphalt, and sulfur for fertilizers.

Sappi Fine Paper (15,256,918 pounds)
Sappi owns a paper mill in Cloquet that produces bleached pulp and coated fine papers.

3M (13,664,493 pounds)
Most of 3M’s toxic releases came from their Cottage Grove plant, where they produce products like Post-it notes, Scotch tape, license plates, golf club finishes, and screens for TVs, laptops, and cell phones.

Alliant Techsystems (11,859,663 pounds)
Alliant owns Federal Cartridge Corporation in Anoka, a manufacturer of ammunition.

Xcel Energy (11,581,319 pounds)
You know what Xcel does. Most of their toxic releases came from their Sherburne County genreating plant.

Boise Cascade (10,825,840 pounds)
The Boise Cascade releases come from their paper mill in International Falls.

The Department of Public Safety summary document is careful to note that these estimates “are not necessarily derived from actual monitoring or measurements” but that “the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency can crosscheck the data with environmental discharge permits and hazardous waste disclosure reports.”

According to the document, “the information alerts citizens and facilities to chemical management activities in their communities and provides a forum to discuss chemicals and their risks.”

Are you familiar with the Toxic Release Inventory data for your community? Have there been news stories, meetings, or online discussions about the chemicals released where you live?

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Jerry Mayeux on 01/08/2011 - 07:36 am.

    Consider the Connection to:
    Environmental Communication
    The more knowledge we have, the more connections we make.
    Our ECONOMY, HEALTH, & ENVIRONMENT are in the balance!!!

  2. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 01/08/2011 - 10:43 am.

    Then what? Does the state agency have the power to enforce lowering toxic chemical output? Or is our only option to sit around and discuss them?

  3. Submitted by Loretta Holscher on 01/08/2011 - 11:00 am.

    How about some information on how and where it is disposed of?

  4. Submitted by Joe Musich on 01/09/2011 - 09:04 pm.

    My memory is fading but during the Bush years weren’t there executive efforts taken to change how TRI’s were reported ? I recall some sort of obfuscation going on. The key words here are self-reported. It’s kinda cool to take students to the website to see who’s using toxic chemicals right in the immediate neigborhood.

  5. Submitted by Mark Snyder on 01/11/2011 - 01:58 pm.

    Response to joe – There were changes made at the federal level during the Bush years and Minnesota’s Legislature passed a bill to restore the old reporting requirements. Those Bush-era changes were also reversed when Obama took office.

    Also – pollution from the 3M Cottage Grove facility primarily comes from the on-site incinerator they operate. Readers may recall last year that 3M sought to change the incinerator’s operating permit to allow them to accept hazardous wastes from other companies.

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