The “new” Environmental Protection Agency under Lisa Jackson has released a toxic tally of releases to air, land and water in Michigan and the rest of the United States.
Folks here care about this stuff because the region relies on the Great Lakes for fishing, recreation, drinking water, you name it. It’s part of our identity. And if you’ve ever stood and looked out into the expanse of Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie or Superior, it just cheers you up.
The latest numbers aren’t as cheery. The TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) data show an overall decrease of 5 percent in releases from 2006 to 2007.
But dig a little deeper (with gloves). There were increases in bioaccumulative chemicals like lead, dioxins, mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that build up in the food chain and can harm human health.
U.S. production of PCBs was banned 30 years ago, but releases of the industrial chemicals went up by 40 percent from 2006 to 2007, the EPA says.
The report leaves me with unanswered questions, but at least I have the data.
The TRI was scaled back under the Bush administration. On March 11, President Barack Obama signed a law that returns the TRI to more comprehensive reporting requirements that existed prior to December 2006.
No matter where you live in the U.S., this data is worth checking out. You can search by ZIP code at TRI Explorer.
According to an Associated Press report, the increase in PCB releases was likely due to the disposal of old equipment or the cleanup of industrial sites. A 38-percent rise in mercury was blamed on metal mining, which is (surprise to me) the single largest source of toxic chemical releases into the environment.
The photo above is of an acid mine discharge.