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Emissions inventory provides a picture of toxic air pollution
in the Great Lakes region
Ann Arbor, Mich. - The Great Lakes Commission has announced the
release of the newest edition of the Great Lakes Regional Toxic Air
Emissions Inventory. Based on estimates of 2002 air emissions provided
by the eight Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario, the inventory
covers emissions from more than 2,000 categories of air pollution sources,
including industrial facilities, automobiles, small engines and many
This is the sixth year of data that has been compiled for the regional
inventory. Its completion marks continued progress toward obtaining comprehensive coverage of
toxic emission sources in the Great Lakes region and achieving data
reporting consistency among the eight states and Ontario.
The inventory includes releases of nearly 200 chemicals, intended to
represent all those identified as Hazardous Air Pollutants in the Clean
Air Act, and emissions estimates from nearly 12,000 industrial facilities
across the region. In all, it estimates approximately 2.47 billion pounds
of toxic air emissions for the entire region, which covers a total population
of more than 90 million people.
A regional inventory of this type is particularly valuable for the
Great Lakes region due to health concerns from pollutants, such as mercury,
which enter the Great Lakes from the air. Their large surface areas,
long water retention times and other factors make the Great Lakes particularly
susceptible to such problems. Many toxic pollutants that are originally
released to the air will deposit to land and waterways in large quantities,
either in precipitation, attached to particles, or as gasses.
“Many of the toxic pollution problems we face today in the Great
Lakes and in our other water bodies have their origin in the atmosphere,”
said Cathy Curran Myers, deputy secretary for water management at the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. “Understanding
where these emissions are occurring is the first step to being able
to protect our lakes, or wildlife and our people from these toxic substances.”
Total estimated emissions in this latest inventory are lower than in
previous years, but may not reflect a decline in overall emissions.
Changes in methodology, including the addition of more types of sources
and improvements in estimation techniques and measurements, can lead
to changes in emission estimates that do not necessarily reflect changes
in actual emissions.
“Our partners in producing this inventory have made a clear choice
to continually improve their methods, in an effort to achieve the best
emission estimates possible,” said Thomas Crane, interim executive
director of the Great Lakes Commission. “Although this makes it
more difficult to detect changes from year to year, it increases our
ability to say with confidence where these toxic chemicals are coming
from and what might be done to best protect our lakes and our people.”
The Great Lakes regional inventory is a longstanding and unique partnership
among the eight Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario. The
nine participants not only share emissions estimates as part of the
regional project, but also work together to improve estimation methods
and to share and compare their procedures and information.
“This partnership has led to significant improvements in the
toxic air emissions inventories on both sides of the border,”
said Crane. “As well, it has provided the participating states
and province a unique opportunity to work collaboratively in addressing
this Great Lakes issue which is shared by both countries. Beyond just
sharing of information, this project has led to making that information
more consistent in terms of how it is produced and reported.”
The inventory data have been used for a variety of purposes by the
participating states and province, as well as by other agencies and
organizations. For example, the data have been used to assess health
risks, prioritize state and federal pollution prevention activities,
supporting permit review and tracking, assisting community groups and
researchers, and much more.
The report of the 2002 Great Lakes Regional Air Toxic Emissions Inventory
is available online through the Great Lakes Commission’s web site
at www.glc.org/air. In addition, the emissions estimates can be viewed
through the Centralized Air emissions Repository On-Line (CAROL), an
interactive website capable of producing maps, charts and tables of
the toxic air emissions information at http://mds.glc.org/carol.
The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. John Cherry (Mich.), is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors' appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a "Declaration of Partnership." The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.