United States         Communications and      October 1989
               Environmental Protection     Public Affairs
    •, i         A9mcy _ |A-'071 _
oEPA       Right-To-Know

               Two Articles  From

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What  It  Can  Mean  for  Citizens
by Susan G. Madden
                    '.--nlAi. B!:ii/;;:''.S TO
                 !/-• £~A TOXICS '  ,-KARY
 In Thomas Jefferson's vision of
 democracy, an informed citizenry
participates actively in the political
process. Since Jefferson's time, however,
society has become considerably more,
complex, and it has become increasingly
difficult for citizens to keep informed
about public  policy-related issues,
especially those that require an
understanding of scientific or technical
  In the twentieth century, government
has gradually assumed much greater
responsibility for making information
available to citizens, particularly
information concerning risks to health
and the environment. In fact,
information has become an important
means of regulating risks in the
workplace and from consumer products.
For example, many consumer products
carry requisite labeling that provides
information about safe storage and use,
and many food products must display
ingredient labels.
  In 1986, Congress enacted the
Emergency Planning and Community
Right-to-Know Act—also known as Title
III of the Superfund Amendments and
Reauthorization Act (SARA)—which
extends a late twentieth-century
Jeffersonian approach to the risks posed
by hazardous chemicals in our
communities. Title III, as the new
statute is often called, contains a
number of new provisions related to
emergency planning, emergency
notification, and a Toxic Chemical
Release Inventory as well as Community
Right-to-Know reporting on chemicals.
  The chemical reporting requirements
of Title III create a vast new resource of
data about the presence of potentially
hazardous chemicals in communities,
and this new resource opens up a vast
opportunity for citizens to assume a
stronger role in environmental affairs.
However, the new law also raises
important questions about the respective
roles of government, citizens, and the
private sector in monitoring,
disseminating, and interpreting data.
For example, who should be responsible
for analyzing Title III  data? Who should
ensure that the analysis is balanced?
  Title III is  a complex statute that
differentiates among three categories of
hazardous  chemicals,  mandates three
Title HI and other similar laws
raise a number of questions
about who should have
responsibility for turning data
into information.
different kinds of reports and several
reporting formats, and embodies
multiple goals. Since it was passed in
part as a response to the accidental
release of a highly toxic chemical in
Bhopal, India, in 1984, one important
purpose of Title III is contingency
planning by state and local governments
as well as commercial facilities for
emergencies involving hazardous
chemicals. Facilities subject to Title III
requirements include such diverse
establishments as warehouses,
drycleaning and manufacturing
establishments, and hardware stores.
  Title III requires facilities to report to
new Local Emergency Planning
Committees concerning the storage on
their premises of "extremely hazardous"
chemicals in amounts over a
"threshold" quantity. These local
committees are charged with developing
emergency response plans, using this
storage information as well  as other
information they may request from
facilities. Emergency reporting, a second
purpose of Title III, is achieved by
requiring facilities to report whenever
they, accidentally release these
hazardous chemieaft.
  Facilities must also submit annual
hazardous chemical inventories,
covering a much greater number of
chemicals at higher thresholds, both to
assist local planning committees and to
enable citizens to learn about the
chemicals present in their communities.
Finally, manufacturing facilities must
annually submit an emissions inventmy
detailing emissions into air, water, and
ground of certain toxic chemicals.  EPA
is charged with compiling these
emissions  data in its Toxic Chemical
Release Inventory and making this
information available to the public in
electronic as well as othe; forms.
  Since it  has previously leen difficult
to learn the identities of chemicals
stored and emitted by lot.d! rncilitiec,
Title III has given citizens access to
important  new data. The first chemical
inventories were submitted in March
1988, and  the first  emissions inventories
in July 1988. The sheer complexity of
the law's reporting requirements may
adversely affect the consistency, quality,
or utility of the data, at least in the first
few years of the" program. Nevertheless,
citizens have already begun to use the
information in a variety of ways.
  It is not unusual for community and
environmental groups to band together
temporarily to combat a perceived
hazard in the community. In many
instances,  such community action
committees have worked with their
Local Emergency Planning Committees
to conduct assessments of the hazards
posed by  particular facilities. Focusing
first on the facilities storing the most (or
the most toxic) chemicals, citizens have
asked industry to create scenarios
illustrating what would happen if an
accident occurred.

   Such scenarios typically include, for
 example, the plotting of plumes
 showing how chemicals would disperse
 in air and an analysis of whether and
 how especially vulnerable persons like
 children and the elderly would be
 affected in an emergency. Appropriate
 emergency plans are also  developed.
 Many citizens have taken tours of local
 facilities and learned how chemicals are
 being stored. They have begun working
 with facilities to achieve reductions in
 inventories of hazardous chemicals
 stored in large quantities.
   Although the chemical  inventories
 constitute the largest part of the data
 collected under Title IH, the Toxic
 Chemical Release Inventory emissions
 data have drawn the greatest attention
 from the press and the public.
   Anticipating public concerns about
 the quantities of emissions that they
 would be reporting on July 1,  1988,
 several  major companies previously
 announced plans to reduce their
 emissions over several years by amounts
 ranging from 50 to 90 percent.
 Conversely, in one neighborhood  near
 Houston, Texas, citizens are working
 directly with a local plant to develop an
 emissions-reduction plan, using the
 emissions report filed in July 1988 as
 the basis for their negotiations.
   Other citizens are more  interested in
 using Toxic Chemical Release  Inventory
 data to develop a picture of conditions
 area-wide or industry-wide. The
 Massachusetts Public Interest Research
 Group, for example, compiled
 state-wide emissions data  based on the
 following factors: location by city,
 potential adverse health effects, and
 disposal sites. The group then  helped
 draft a bill, introduced in  the state
 legislature, designed to accelerate
 adoption of pollution-prevention
 strategies by industry.
  In another example, a national public
interest  group, OMB Watch, used  the
emissions inventory data to .obtain an
overview of routine emissions  of heavy
metals, which can cause a range of
adverse health effects in humans.
  Citizens for a Better Environment
examined the chemicals emitted in
Richmond, California, identifying
facilities responsible for the greatest
amounts of emissions and the most
hazardous chemicals both stored and
emitted. This group noted that lower
income and minority citizens are most
at risk, because they live nearest to the
Citizens have already begun
to use the information in a
variety  of ways.
  Another California group, the Silicon
Valley Toxic Coalition, is focusing on
the semiconductor industry, examining
industry-wide patterns in emissions. All
reports of these groups call for citizens
to work with industry to obtain
reductions in both use and routine
emissions of toxic chemicals as well as
to develop strong accident-prevention
  Citizen groups are also investigating
how Title III data can be used in local
enforcement efforts. For example, many
of them have suggested correlating
emissions inventory data with the air
and water permits of each facility. In
many cases, however, the permits may
not mention the particular chemicals
that are reported under Title III. An
alternative approach, now being
explored in Texas, is to compare the
emissions data with the chemical
inventories, in order to identify any
possible inconsistencies. Apparent
inconsistencies would then lead citizens
to question facilities about substances
stored in large quantities but not cited
in the emissions data; even more
concern might be aroused by substances
reported to the emissions data base but
not included on the chemical
inventories. Obtaining answers to such
questions will require citizens to work
closely with industry and government.
  These kinds of activities, which are
going on throughout the nation, suggest
the important opportunities that the
new data available under Title III
provide citizens to become involved in
monitoring and reducing risks from
hazardous chemicals in their
environments. However, raw data and
statistics do not constitute useful
information. Suth data must be
analyzed and placed in context to
provide information that can be the
basis for citizen participation in
decision-making. Title III and other
similar laws raise a number of questions
about who should have responsibility
for turning data into information.
  First, citizens who wish to take an
active role in reducing risks from
hazardous materials in their
communities need information beyond
that submitted under Title III. The
precise nature of this supplementary
information is beyond the scope of this
article, but it is clear that at the very
least, citizens need  detailed information
about the potential health effects of
chemicals and information about
appropriate storage, use, and disposal
techniques. Should  government,
industry, or someone else be responsible
for providing this supplementary
  For citizens who are in potential
danger, it is unquestionably worthwhile
to obtain the necessary information to
reduce their risks; on the other hand, it
is a waste of resources for many
different citizens to duplicate the same
searches for information. Another factor
to be considered is  that citizens do not
trust all sources of information equally;
they generally prefer information that
comes from environmental groups or, in

the case of health effects information,
  In many cases, however, industry is
likely to have a monopoly on the
necessary information. Should
government step in to evaluate the
quality of supplementary  information
and ensure its availability? If the answer
is "no," and  if citizens' are unable to
acquire or use the supplementary
information, they will not be able to
participate fully in the decision-making
  Second, although Congress ensured
that Title III  emissions inventory data
would be computerized, it did not
require that the inventories of stored
chemicals also required under the
statute be computerized. The same
advantages derived from computerized
emissions data would also apply if the
other data were computerized. These
advantages include expanded capability
for  data analysis, more effective
community-wide emergency planning,
and better, speedier emergency
response. In short, computers can help
turn data into information by sorting out
data based on the needs of the
particular user, analyzing  the data
selected, and even providing needed
  At present, computerization at the
state and local levels  depends on the
availability of resources, and there is no
way to ensure that local data are
compatible with data compiled by
neighboring constituencies. In cases
where Local Emergency Planning
Committees cover small geographic
areas, such as those near Boston  Harbor
or .in New Jersey, citizens  and
emergency response planners are likely
to need information from neighboring
jurisdictions because they could so
easily be affected by events at plants in
adjacent areas. Should an effort be made
to link existing emergency response
networks to Title III data  and to  each
other to ensure that statewide or even
national data are available, to everyone?
Who would pay for such  an effort, and
how should such a data base be
constructed to be useful and
The role citizens play in
decisions about  the
acceptability of risks from
hazardous chemicals in the
community is changing ...
from  ignorance  ana impotence
to knowledge and power.
  Third, Title III provides data so that
citizens may participate more fully in
decisions concerning hazardous
materials in their communities.
However, our society does not presently
have many institutions that encourage
interactions between citizens and
private industry. Existing institutions
for citizen participation are usually
intended to foster direct access to
government rather than industry. The
Community Awareness and Emergency
Response program (CAER) sponsored by
the Chemical Manufacturers
Association—part of which includes an
,effort to remedy this institutional
deficiency—has, in practice, focused
more on  reducing risk and developing
emergency  plans than on establishing
ongoing relationships between member
companies  and  citizens other  than
elected officials.
  Local Emergency Planning
Committees, which by  law must  include
representatives  from all three
sectors—citizens, government, and
industry—could serve as forums in
which decisions are made about risks
from hazardous chemicals. At present,
most local committees are absorbed
with their primary statutory tasks of
emergency planning and emergency
response, but with some encouragement
and assistance, their responsibilities
could be expanded to  include
negotiation about emissions reduction
and the substitution of less hazardous
for more hazardous chemicals. If
appropriate channels are not developed,
these decisions are likely to become
subject to an adversarial process that
will be costly and time-consuming for
all parties.
  Title III has provided citizens,
emergency managers, and regulators
with a rich  new source of data. So fur
the reports concerning citizen initiatives
around the country indicate that the
data  are likely to be used to a greater
extent once this new resource has been
available longer and citizens have had
an opportunity to become familiar with
its strengths and  weaknesses. Even these
early activities are evidence, however,
that the role citizens play in decisions
about the acceptability of risks from
hazardous chemicals in the  community
is changing: a change from ignorance
and impotence to knowledge and
power. Fully realized, this change will
have widespread effects on both our
environment and our polity, a
(Dr. Hadden is Associate Professor at
the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public
Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.
She is author of A Citizen's Right to
Know: Risk Communication and Public
Policy (Westview Press, 1939JJ

 Right-to-Know:  What It
 Means  for  EPA
 by Charles L Elkins
   Epichlorohydrin is a caustic,
   flammable chemical used in the
production of epoxy resins, solvents,
plastics, and other products. Breathing
its vapors can irritate your eyes, nose,
and lungs. High-level or repeated
exposure can damage your liver and
kidneys and  could cause a fatal buildup
of fluid in your lungs.
  What's more, breathing
epichlorohydrin has been shown to
cause nasal cancer in laboratory rats.
Based on these and other animal
studies, EPA has classified
epichlorohydrin as a "probable human
  Sound  like a good candidate for
regulation by EPA? Not necessarily.
With effects such as these, the key
question is: how extensive is public
exposure to the substance? Until
recently, data available to EPA did not
indicate that significant numbers of
people were being exposed to
  Now, however,  thanks to information
in a new EPA data base called the Toxic
Chemical Release Inventory (TRI), EPA's
Office of Air and Radiation is taking
another look at epichlorohydrin. The
reason: TRI data show that there are at
least three times as many manufacturing
plants releasing epichlorohydrin into
the air in the United States as the
Agency had previously estimated.
According to the data base, 70 facilities
in 24 states emitted a total of 363,300
pounds of epichlorohydrin into the air
in 1987. Before the TRI data were
available, EPA had identified only 20
sources of epichlorohydrin emissions.
  Locating previously unknown sources
of toxic chemical releases is only one of
dozens of  potential uses of the TRI that
are being identified by EPA's various
programs.  Other uses include:
• The Air Office has used TRI data to
support the development of
administration proposals to amend the
air toxics provisions  of the Clean Air
EPA received about 75,000
reports from some 18,000
facilities for 1987—one for
each chemical reported by
each facility.
Act. In addition, the Air Office and the
Office of Solid Waste will use the data
to help set their regulatory agendas,
• The Office of Water plans to use the
TRI to spot possible violations of
water-pollution discharge permits; to
target enforcement activities; to help in
reviewing permit requests; and to set
water quality standards.

• The Office of Toxic Substances is
screening TRI data to locate candidates
for regulatory investigation under its
existing chemicals program and  to
verify production estimates for asbestos
and other regulated chemicals.

• The Pollution Prevention Office
expects to use the TRI in developing its
strategy for assessing progress in
pollution prevention; to determine
research needs; and to identify
industries  or facilities that need
technical assistance.

  The toxic chemical release data,
which must be submitted to EPA and
the states every year by thousands of
manufacturing facilities across the
country, are providing EPA with an
unprecedented national "snapshot" of
toxic chemical emissions from some
industries to all environmental
media—air, water, and land.
  The reporting is required by Section
313 of the Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986
(Title III of the Superfund Amendments
and Reauthorization Act). The Act also
requires industries to participate in
contingency planning for chemical
emergencies and to notify their states
and communities of the presence and
accidental release of hazardous
  As envisioned by Congress, a primary
purpose of the Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know program is
to inform communities and citizens of
toxic chemical hazards in their own
localities, so they can work together to
reduce risk. Used in this way, TRI and
other Title III  data can be a potent force
for environmental change.
  A unique aspect of the  TRI is that it
is made available to the public directly,
without analysis or interpretation by
EPA or any other intermediary (see
box). As discussed in another article
(see page 13),  citizens  already are using
the data to lobby for stronger federal
and state regulation of toxic chemicals.
They also are  using this new
information to pressure local industries
to implement  pollution prevention
programs in order to cut back on
unregulated releases. Several
companies, after reviewing their own
TRI reports, have announced ambitious

 plans to voluntarily reduce their toxic
 chemical emissions within the next few
  Because of its multi-media nature,
 however, the TRI has potential value
 that extends well beyond the boundaries
 of individual facilities and local
 communities. It can also be a valuable
 source of information for environmental
 regulators and public health officials at
 all levels of government.
  EPA and the  states can, for example,
 use the information to better understand
 what toxic chemicals are released and
 where, in order to get a  more complete
 picture of the total toxic loading in a
 given geographic area. With this
 information, regulatory agencies will be
 able to set priorities, focus their
 activities, identify gaps  in regulatory
 coverage, and integrate their programs
 more effectively. EPA has prepared a
 "risk screening" guidebook to help state
 and local officials use the TRI data for
these purposes. Other documents,
 including toxicity fact sheets on the TRI
chemicals and "roadmaps" to other
sources of information, also are being
  The TRI also  will make it easier to
monitor pollution trends from year to
year, as well as shifts of pollutants
among air, land, and water (to
determine, for example,  if restrictions
on land disposal cause greater releases
to air, or vice versa). Before the TRI,
much of this information had never
been collected, and what was collected
was scattered in separate, mostly
incompatible, EPA program files.
  The first industry reports under
Section 313 were due to EPA and the
states last July 1, covering both
accidental and routine releases of more
than 300 reportable chemicals during
1987. Manufacturing facilities with 10
or more employees that used more than
10,000 pounds of one of the chemicals,
or manufactured or processed more than
75,000 pounds of a reportable chemical,
were required to report. The
75,000-pound threshold drops to 50,000
pounds for 1988 releases and to 25,000
pounds for 1989 and thereafter.
  EPA received about 75,000 reports
from some 18,000 facilities for
1987—one for each chemical reported
by each facility. The reports showed
that at least 2.7 billion pounds of toxic
chemicals were emitted into the air in
1987, 9.7 billion pounds were released
to streams and other bodies of water, 2.4
billion pounds were placed in landfills
or otherwise disposed of on land, and
3.2  billion pounds were injected
underground. In addition, an estimated
1.9  billion pounds of toxic chemicals
were sent to municipal wastewater
treatment plants for processing and
disposal, and 2.6 billion pounds were
transported off site to other treatment
and disposal facilities.
  While these numbers are large and
clearly indicate the need for additional
efforts by both government and industry
to reduce toxic chemical emissions, they
do not suggest an immediate public
health crisis. In fact, the overall risk to
the public health from these releases is
probably low. It is likely that only a few
facilities are exposing the public to
toxic chemicals at a rate that could
warrant immediate action; others,
however, may be creating risks due to
long-term, low-level exposures,  and
these must be dealt with as well.
  From a regulatory standpoint, the
value of the TRI data lies primarily in
their ability to pinpoint specific
facilities,  industries, or geographic areas
of particular concern for further
investigation and follow-up action. For
example, the information can call
attention to a facility or category of
facilities that may be releasing excessive
amounts of toxic chemicals.
  It is important to note that the data
are only annual estimates, not
measurements of actual releases. No
additional monitoring by reporting
companies is required by the law. Nor
does the TRI show the relative toxicity
of the chemicals or the rate at which
they are released, although EPA will
consider adding reporting on "peak
releases" to the inventory in the future.
(Some high-volume chemicals, such as
sodium sulfate, are relatively harmless
and are scheduled for removal from the
TRI list of reportable chemicals.) If an
inventory user is concerned, for
instance, about acute exposures rather
than bioaccumulation, he or she would
want to know whether most of the
emissions were discharged in a few
days or over the course of the entire
reporting year.
  Despite these limitations—which will
diminish over time as companies
improve their estimation techniques and
as EPA takes steps to improve the
accuracy and usefulness of the data
base—Title III is nothing less than a
revolutionary approach to
environmental protection.  It

fundamentally challenges the notion
that decisions about the control of toxic
chemicals should be left to the
"experts" in government, industry, and
  Since Title III data are made  available
to.the public and EPA at the same time,
the program creates a new opportunity
for a working partnership between the
public and the Agency. By sharing
information, the public and EPA can
also share in finding solutions—for
example, by developing new  programs
to identify options for  reducing the
production and use of toxic chemicals.
The development of a  creative new
partnership involving EPA, state and
local governments, and the public may,
in fact, be the most important benefit of
all to flow from the Emergency Planning
and Community Right-to-Know
program. Q
(Elkins is Director of EPA's Office of
Toxic Substances.]
How To Obtain
Emissions Data
EPA's Toxic Chemical Release
Inventory (TRI) data base is being
made available directly to the
public through computer
telecommunications and other
means. Here are some of the ways
members of the public can obtain
information from the TRI;

• If you have  a home computer
and a telephone modem,  you can
"dial up" the data base, which  is
housed at the  National Library  of
Medicine (NLM) in Bethesda,
Maryland, and review the data  on
your monitor or "download" it
onto a computer disc or printer. A
nominal access fee will be
charged. For information  on
obtaining an account with NLM,
call 301-496-6531.
• If you have  access to a
microcomputer, you can obtain
TRI data for each state on
• You can review microfiche
copies of data  on TRI releases in
your state either at the
Government Printing Office {GPO)
federal depository library in your
Congressional  district or at a
designated public library  in your
county. The complete national
data base will  be available at EPA
libraries and at regional and state
depository libraries. Call the
toll-free Emergency Planning and
Community Right-to-Know Hotline
at 800-535-0202 (in Washington,
DC, 202-479-2449) for the address
of the library with TRI data nearest
• The national data base will also
be available in compact disc
(CD-ROM) format at 400 federal
depository libraries, 200 other
research and academic libraries,
and all EPA libraries. The Hotline
can help you locate these libraries
as well,
• EPA is publishing a National
Report with detailed summaries
and analyses of the TRI data. The
report will be available  at the
federal depository libraries or can
be purchased from GPO or the
National Technical Information
Service (NTIS). In addition, all
versions of the TRI data
base—magnetic tape, CD-ROM,
microfiche, and diskettes—can be
purchased from GPO
(202-275-2091) or NTIS
(703-487-4650). Call the Hotline
for ordering information.
• You can obtain copies of TRI
reports for individual facilities
from your State TRI Coordinator.
The Title III Hotline can tell you
who to contact.

• Finally, the TRI Reporting
Center in Washington, DC, will
make data from individual
facilities available in its reading
room, will mail out limited
numbers of TRI reports, and will
conduct limited searches of the
data base and provide printouts on
request. The Reporting Center's
address is: Title III Reporting
Center, P.O. Box 70266,
Washington, DC 20024-0266 (Attn:
Public Inquiry),