Latest North American data help track industrial pollution, support sustainability efforts
- Updated, integrated North American database details a reported 4.9 billion kilograms of pollutants, including cross-border transfers.
- Multi-year database allows tracking of changes in pollutant releases over time
- Improved search tools allow users to explore pollutant releases and transfers from specific facilities and sectors at local and continental levels using charts and maps.
Vancouver, 15 March 2012—The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) today released a major update of pollution data reported by industrial facilities in Canada, Mexico and the United States at the Globe 2012 conference on business and the environment. The CEC’s updated website—Taking Stock Online—allows companies, communities, and the public to track the release and transfer of pollutants across industries and national boundaries.
“Tracking industrial pollution information is vital to our collective efforts to green North America’s economy and make manufacturing, resource extraction and energy production more environmentally sustainable,” said Evan Lloyd, CEC Executive Director.
Taking Stock Online presents the most recent and complete North American data on industrial pollutant releases and transfers and is an important resource in support of sustainability goals. The database covers more than 500 pollutants and almost 100 major industrial sectors reporting to the pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs) of the three North American countries.
The Taking Stock website features a summary of data reported in 2009, the latest publicly available information from all three North American PRTRs. It shows that reported North American industrial releases and transfers totaled just over 4.9 billion kilograms in 2009—a decrease from the 5.7 billion kilograms reported in each of the previous three years.
Tracking pollutants for sustainability
Both industry and governments need reliable and comparable information to meet the challenge of protecting shared ecosystems. For companies, using PRTR data as a baseline can help gauge their environmental performance and communicate this to shareholders and communities. Taking Stock Online, in combination with other information, can be used to help track sustainability by:
- gaining a better understanding of their pollutant emissions and waste management practices;
- comparing their facility releases to those of other facilities from the same company, or in the same sector across North America, and establishing benchmarking for pollution reductions;
- verifying corporate environmental reports against reported PRTR information.
Later this year the CEC will publish the 14th annual edition of its Taking Stock report, a detailed analysis of changes in reported releases and transfers over the last five years of available data. The report will focus on North America-wide changes in reported releases of pollutants of common concern, the facilities and sectors reporting them, and changes in pollutant management methods.
Using the multi-year data now online, some significant changes are already apparent. For example, reported air releases of mercury and its compounds from the electricity generation sector decreased by about 26 percent between 2005 and 2009. Of all reporting sectors, fossil fuel-based power plants have consistently been the top source of releases to air of mercury, accounting for at least 66 percent of total annual releases to air of this substance. Mercury, a persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) pollutant, is reported to the three North American PRTRs and is of special concern because of its potential to be extremely toxic to human health and the environment.
The upcoming report will explore the details of such changes in order to identify the drivers, which can range from shifts in the number of reporting facilities, changes in pollutant management methods and—in the particular case of fossil fuel power plants—fuel and process changes and the implementation of other pollution prevention activities.
Tools for understanding and using North American pollutant data
The Taking Stock Online searchable database features new tools to assist in data analysis, including dynamic summary charts that drive the user to specific search results. The website includes a “Using and Understanding” section with information about the data and tools. It also outlines the unique requirements of each country’s PRTR system relative to the sectors and pollutants subject to reporting and how those affect the North American picture of industrial pollution.
Among other features, the website allows users to:
- Explore data on pollutant releases and transfers of a variety of pollutants, from a range of sectors—in one or more country, as well as across borders;
- Track year-to-year changes in reporting and waste management practices
- Generate reports in a variety of formats including pie charts and spreadsheets;
- Create maps and view them using Google Earth;
- Analyze PRTR data with respect to geospatial information such as watersheds, rivers and lakes, and population centers using data from the CEC’s North American Environmental Atlas.