- US industrial water waste rising - study
Reuters News Service
- Industrial pollution dumped into U.S. and Canadian lakes,
rivers and streams rose 26 percent from 1995 to 1999, overshadowing
an almost equal reduction in toxic air emissions, an environmental
watchdog agency said yesterday.
In its annual study on pollution in Canada
and the United States, the North American Commission for
Environmental Cooperation, a Montreal-based agency created
under the North American Free Trade Agreement, said the
total amount of toxic releases and transfers fell only 3
percent during the five-year period.
modest decline was aided by the manufacturing sector's
25-percent reduction in air emissions, the commission
the reduced amount of pollution spewed into the air was
offset by a 25-percent jump in on-site releases to land,
a 35-percent surge in off-site releases - mainly to landfills
- and the 26-percent rise in pollution poured into surface
Ferretti, executive director of the commission, said that
amounted to an "out of the air, into the water and land"
trend during the five years.
effect, it is almost as though we are running in place
here," she told Reuters in an interview.
report, entitled "Taking Stock," is the sixth straight
study by the commission and for the first time provides
a five-year snapshot of North American releases and transfers
of chemicals. Industries are required to report pollution
releases and transfers in Canada and the United States,
but that is not yet mandatory in Mexico.
report examined waste data on 210 chemicals - including
those that deplete the protective ozone layer in the Earth's
atmosphere - from 21,500 facilities in the United States
and Canada. In Mexico, 117 facilities voluntarily reported
report notes worrisome trends in the pollution pattern
from North American industry. Almost 3.4 million tonnes
of toxic chemical waste was produced in 1999, roughly
1 million tonnes of that released on-site into the air.
Almost 8 percent of total releases included chemicals
known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive
said she is concerned that the Great Lakes region appears
to feature too prominently in producing pollution.
OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, ONTARIO TOP POLLUTERS
in 1998, the top polluting jurisdictions included the
American states of Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan
and Indiana, as well as Ontario, Canada's most populated
province. Ranked by chemical "loadings," the amounts released,
transferred for disposal or brought in for that purpose,
the biggest polluters were Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and
1999, only four industries - primary metals, chemical
manufacturing, electrical utilities and hazardous waste
management - accounted for almost two-thirds of total
releases and transfers.
one-third of total releases were metals such as lead,
chromium and nickel and their compounds, largely produced
by steel, aluminum and other metals makers.
of the significant sectors that is kind of throwing progress
into question is the primary metals sector," Ferretti
utilities, which began reporting data for the study only
in 1998, were again the biggest polluters, releasing more
than 450,000 tonnes of toxic materials in 1999.
15 of the 21,500 industrial facilities reporting, or less
than 0.1 percent, accounted for 7 percent of the waste
produced. The top 15 included Magnesium Corp. of America
in Utah, Grupo Mexico unit Asarco Inc. in Arizona and
Montana, AK Steel in Pennsylvania, and the lone Canadian
entry, Safety-Kleen Ltd. in Ontario.
study did not examine greenhouse gas emissions, which
are targeted for reduction under the Kyoto climate change
protocol. The U.S. government has refused to sign the
pact and Canada appears to be wavering, as energy producers
and business groups say the measures would damage the
said the commission's annual study is gathering more detailed
information as reporting thresholds for certain chemicals
are lowered. Canadian and U.S. releases of the cancer-causing
chemical dioxin will be included in the 2000 report.
detailed data and the expected inclusion of Mexican pollution
reporting in the next two to three years will provide
a better picture of industrial waste trends, Ferretti
real work begins now in terms of having jurisdictions,
industry, governments and citizen groups do some analysis
of why are we seeing these trends, what is their relevance
and what can be done to improve the situation," she said.