The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website provides a wealth of information about the environment. The EPA is taking on the challenge of making all of the data it collects easily searchable through new and improved webpages and apps.
Use the CDAT webpage to see what chemicals are at a local industrial site
Manufacturers and importers that produce or use large quantities of chemicals in commerce must provide information about those chemicals to the EPA. The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) requires the EPA to publish current lists of each chemical substance that is manufactured or processed in the United States. The 2012 information is now available online, according to a Feb. 11, 2013, EPA news release. The EPA provides this information to the public via the Chemical Data Access Tool (CDAT), under the Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) tab.
The CDR database contains information on more than 7,600 chemicals. Companies that manufacture or import chemicals must report data every four years whenever production at a particular site exceeds 25,000 pounds. TSCA only requires that the chemicals be reported and does not require that they be evaluated for safety.
MyRight-To-Know app pinpoints polluters
The EPA app, myRight-To-Know, displays the location of facilities that are required to report to the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program, and also facilities that have EPA air, water, or hazardous waste program permits. This app can be used to determine the toxic chemicals a particular facility releases into the environment, the health effects of those chemicals, and the facility’s history of compliance with federal environmental laws.
EPA tools shed light on local SABIC Plastics site
EPA tools can be used to assess whether a local industry is complying with environmental laws or poses a significant risk to the health and environment. Consider, for example, the SABIC Plastics industrial site at Mt. Vernon, Ind.
A search under the CDR tab of the CDAT webpage for SABIC Innovative Plastics U.S., LLC, shows 31 chemicals were reported (as of 2012) for the Mt. Vernon site. SABIC provided no figure for the actual amount of any of the chemicals, claiming that it was confidential business information (CBI). Chemicals produced or used at the Mt. Vernon SABIC site included benzene compounds, phenol, furan, sodium hydroxide, propanoic acid, methanol, nitrous acid, hydrochloric acid, chlorine, and ethanone. Many of the listed chemicals are known to cause adverse health effects.
The myRight-To-Know app yielded more specific information. The Mt. Vernon plant ranked 50 out of 2959 sites nationally in the amount of toxic chemicals reported, with 1,417,982 pounds released into the air, 363,039 pounds into the water, and five pounds onto the land. SABIC accounted for nearly two-thirds of all toxic chemical released in Posey County. Among the many toxic chemicals at the plant that could cause adverse health effects were dichloromethane (448,250 pounds) and ethylbenzene (52,250 pounds). Dichloromethane is a carcinogen and affects the blood, liver, and neurological system. Ethylbenzene is a possible carcinogen and affects the developmental and endocrine systems. For the entire period for which information was available---from Oct. 2009 to Sept. 2012---the Mt. Vernon facility was listed as non-compliant. Four formal actions were taken against it in the past five years.
In 2012, SABIC Innovative Plastics U.S., LLC, and its subsidiary, SABIC Innovative Plastics Mt. Vernon, LLC, reached a settlement with the Dept. of Justice and the EPA regarding SABIC’s alleged violation of the Clean Air Act, according to Jeff Lorenzo of The Indiana Environmental and Real Property Law Report. SABIC agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1,012,873 and to improve leak detection and repair practices at its chemical manufacturing facilities in Mt. Vernon.
Considering the wide range of potentially hazardous chemicals at the Mt. Vernon plant and its history of noncompliance as noted by EPA records, it would be prudent to monitor the facility more closely.
Other articles you may be interested in by this author: