EPA finds increase in Great Lakes basin water pollution

Jan 17, 2013

Pollution in Great Lakes surface waters increased by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s annual Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report, published today.

Nitrate and pesticide discharge from municipal water treatment plants, agriculture, primary metal facilities, and food and beverage manufacturers accounted for the greatest amount of toxic contamination in surface waters.

EPA's press release announced an increase in toxic surface water, air, and land releases and a decrease in underground injection releases. 

The EPA highlighted the Great Lakes basin as an area for improvement:

“This is a significant increase in toxic releases to our waters – and an indication that the Great Lakes region is lagging behind other parts of the country,” said Susan Hedman, EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager.  “EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory is a valuable tool to help target areas for improvement and we will use this new information to work with municipalities, agricultural producers and manufacturers in the Great Lakes Basin to improve water quality.”

Since 2003, overall toxic releases in the Great Lakes basin have decreased by about 40 percent and are currently at the second-lowest level in a decade.

Nationwide, toxic release discharge has declined by 3 percent in the 2010-2011 year.

TRIs require industrial facilities to report their toxic releases to the EPA every year. The data is made available to the public to inform citizens of toxic chemical releases and disposal, waste management activities, on-site recycling, and pollution prevention in their areas.

This video from the EPA provides an overview of the TRI National Analysis:

The EPA releases State Fact Sheets (Michigan's 2011 Fact Sheet can be viewed here) and provides a variety of online tools to access and analyze TRI data. 

The My Right-to-Know application allows users to see where toxic-releasing facilities are located in their area through an interactive mapping tool. 

-Rebecca Guerriero, Michigan Radio Newsroom