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August 2, 2021

Preliminary Data for 2020 TRI Reporting Includes First-Ever Reporting on PFAS

Lynn L. Bergeson Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on July 29, 2021, the availability of the preliminary Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) data on chemical releases, chemical waste management, and pollution prevention activities that took place during 2020 at almost 21,000 federal and industrial facilities in the United States. EPA notes that the preliminary data include the first-ever reporting on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) added to the TRI by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The dataset is raw data and does not contain any summary or trend analysis. EPA plans to publish the updated TRI dataset in Fall 2021, and EPA will use it to develop the 2020 TRI National Analysis. EPA expects to publish the 2020 TRI National Analysis in early 2022. According to EPA, the public can use the preliminary data to identify facilities that report to TRI (for example, to locate facilities in a given ZIP code) and learn which chemicals facilities manage and in what quantities.

PFAS-Related Information from the 2020 Preliminary Data

EPA states that at this time, the data related to the PFAS added by the NDAA and received by EPA include 89 TRI reporting forms for 44 discrete PFAS filed by 38 individual facilities. The preliminary data indicate facilities managed more than 700,000 pounds of production-related waste of PFAS during 2020. As EPA reviews the data, it will examine the types of facilities that reported and that did not report, the specific PFAS that were reported and not reported, the information reported, by whom, and the communities in which PFAS are being released or otherwise managed as waste. According to EPA, it will seek to learn to what extent the current TRI reporting requirements regarding PFAS were followed and are adequate in providing the public with important information on the waste management practices of PFAS.

In analyzing the PFAS reporting, EPA states that it will also include a “focused and more rapid effort” intended to provide insights regarding the “seemingly limited” scope of the reporting, including the types and number of facilities reporting and PFAS reported. Depending upon its findings, EPA will take action “as appropriate,” including providing compliance assistance, taking enforcement actions, or proposing modifications to the TRI reporting requirements for PFAS.

The 2020 TRI National Analysis will include a section providing more detailed information on PFAS, including discussion on the quantities of PFAS that were released to the environment, recycled, burned for energy recovery or treated; source reduction activities implemented on PFAS; the facilities and sectors that disclosed this information; and the communities in which these activities took place.

EPA states that it will continue to add PFAS to the TRI per the requirements of the NDAA. For TRI Reporting Year 2021 (reporting forms due by July 1, 2022), the NDAA automatically added three PFAS to the TRI list because they are now subject to a significant new use rule under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). According to EPA, the TRI data collected will help inform its efforts under EPA Administrator Regan’s EPA Council on PFAS to understand better and ultimately reduce the potential risks caused by PFAS.