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Observations and Reminders from RY2020 TRI Reporting

Posted: September 15th, 2021

Authors: Kyle W. 

With Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) reporting deadlines having passed on July 1st, now is the time to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and how you can improve for next year’s reports.

Here are some noteworthy observations from this reporting season, as well as some reminders for next year:

 

  • Double check reporting requirements and exclusion criteria for the chemical. Remember that for certain TRI-reportable chemicals, you are not required to report the full amount depending on the substance, or you only need to report when the chemical is released in a specific form or based on the activity of the chemical; details on the specific conditions under which some TRI-reportable chemicals must be reported (known as “chemical qualifiers”) can be found in Table II of U.S. EPA’s annual TRI guidance document. For example, when reporting ammonia, you are required to report 100% of anhydrous ammonia, but only 10% of aqueous ammonia compounds. When reporting sulfuric acid, you are only required to report if the sulfuric acid at your facility is in an aerosol form (mists, vapors, gas, fog, and other airborne forms) because aqueous solutions are not covered by the sulfuric acid listing. Isopropyl alcohol, which is only reportable if it is manufactured by the strong acid process, is an example of where reporting a TRI chemical is based solely on the activity. Facilities that manufacture isopropyl alcohol as a byproduct or that process or otherwise use isopropyl alcohol are not covered and should not perform release calculations nor file a report; rather, they should document the activity and associated exemption.
  • Metal compounds must be checked for specific exclusion and releases quantified properly based on the metal portion of the compound. When reporting metal compounds be sure to check U.S. EPA’s Consolidated List of Lists to confirm which compounds of that metal are actually reportable and which ones are not. An example related to zinc compounds: initially zinc pyrithione was conservatively included in threshold calculations for a facility and upon further review it was determined that zinc pyrithione was not a reportable zinc compound. Also, when filing a combined form for a metal and a metal compound containing the same elemental metal, remember that while threshold quantities for metal compounds are based on the total weight of the compound, only the metal portion of the compound needs to be considered in release and waste management calculations. Further information on how to report metal compounds can be found in Section B.5 of U.S. EPA’s annual TRI guidance document.
  • Make sure emissions calculations are consistent across reporting obligations. While preparing release calculations, we’ve encountered situations in which air emissions of some TRI-reportable chemicals were being double-counted in information supplied as the basis for preparing a TRI report. Regardless of an error, typo, or inadvertent emission, it’s important that the best possible information available at the time is used. It is a best practice to double check assumptions and foundational information, rather than relying (for efficiency’s sake) on the fact that this was previously prepared and submitted and assuming that it is 100% accurate.  When preparing your TRI calculations, make sure to check your final numbers against what you have reported in your other obligations to ensure there are no discrepancies, or that you have a valid explanation for any discrepancies you do see (e.g., differences in regulatory requirements). If possible, I recommend consolidating your reporting obligations that utilize similar data into one spreadsheet or location to better assure consistency with data that is being used for various reports.
  • Remember that beneficial reuse is not required to be reported. When performing release calculations for waste discharges and transfers off-site, consider the ultimate fate of the release when deciding whether or not it needs to be reported: byproducts and waste materials that are reused or sent off-site for beneficial reuse are not required to be reported. Examples of beneficial reuse include incorporating waste ash into concrete and land-applying sludge for use as a soil amendment.
  • Check that you are using N/A and zero in the correct places. N/A should only be entered if it is not possible for a particular chemical to be emitted/released to the environment. If the chemical is present in some years and is absent in other years a value of zero should be entered. This is especially important when documenting waste streams and discharges to water bodies and it is not an uncommon situation for certain types of waste streams.
  • Remember to double-check your article exemptions. TRI-reportable chemicals contained in certain articles that are processed or otherwise-used are exempt from reporting. The TRI guidance states that to be covered under an article exemption, the item containing your chemical must be a manufactured item formed to a specific shape, which has end-use functions dependent on its shape, and does not release a toxic chemical under normal use. Examples that qualify for article exemption are copper wire, the nickel contained in doorknobs, lead batteries, and stainless steel pipe that is cut to length. When reviewing your facility’s purchase records and beginning to perform threshold calculations, be sure to keep the article exemption in mind to determine eligibility to your specific situation.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at kwalburn@all4inc.com or at (678) 599-9011.

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