Despite a national decline in the number of toxic releases, Lake and Porter counties saw the highest number of incidents in more than a decade.
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released its 2017 Toxics Release Inventory national analysis, which collects information on chemicals released into the air, water or soil. The EPA said that the United States saw an overall decline in toxic releases, but the data showed that Lake and Porter counties saw their largest amounts on-site releases of toxins since 2003.
The EPA said the increase in the amount of releases into the ground can be attributed to on-site disposal of materials.
Since 2003, the data showed water releases have declined 70 percent since 2003, the EPA said, and air releases have dropped 25 percent.
“The United States continues to make significant environmental progress,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Cathy Stepp. Stepp added that the trend comes as the country’s economy continues to grow.
The EPA said since 2007, the data showed a 7 percent decrease in releases.
“This year’s TRI results give proof that economic growth and an improved environment can go hand in hand,” said Alexandra Dunn, the EPA’s assistant administrator for chemical safety and pollution prevention, in a statement. “For over 30 years, TRI has given the public the right-to-know about chemical releases in their neighborhoods and showed what companies are doing to reduce and prevent those releases.”
Dunn said the data shows a decrease in air emissions, and a decrease in chemical waste. Dunn said roughly 4,000 pollution prevention controls were put into place at facilities that report toxic release information to the EPA.
The EPA tracked data on roughly 21,500 facilities in 2017, according to the data. Forty-nine of those facilities are in Lake County, according to the EPA, and 28 are in Porter County.
The EPA reported 512 toxic releases in 2017, according to the data, and 378 of those were in Lake County and 134 were in Porter County.
Dunn said a chemical release does not mean there’s a risk to human health.
The facilities with the top number of releases were BP Products in Whiting with 61; Tradebe Treatment and Recycling in East Chicago with 54; Arcelor Mittal in East Chicago with 48; Arcelor Mittal in Burns Harbor with 38; and U.S. Steel Gary Works with 33.
U.S. Steel in Portage reported seven releases in 2017, according to the data. The data released Tuesday includes an incident at U.S. Steel in Portage when chromium spilled into Lake Michigan.
In 2017, facilities in Lake County released 26.26 million pounds of material, according to the data, and of that, 23.6 million went into the land; 1.04 million into the water; and 1.57 million into the air.
In 2016, the data said a total of 24.7 million pounds of material was released.
In 2017, facilities in Porter County released 3.77 million pounds of material, according to the data, and of that, 2.85 million went into the land; 49,374 into the water; and 871,872 into the air.
In 2016, the data said 3.5 million pounds of material was released in Porter County.