TRI Reporting—Stay Prepared and Save a Headache
Between multiple names, a confusing filing process, and caveats to applicability, filing a Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) report can be a daunting process. And with a looming reporting deadline of July 1, 2023, it is crucial to prepare now in order to avoid the headaches that accompany unpreparedness.
Easy to miss and just as likely to underestimate, a successful TRI report requires an efficient process from start to finish; it is imperative to file properly and on time, as noncompliance can mean:
- Civil penalties
- Violation correction and remediation
- Workflow and operations disruption
Fortunately, with proper planning and foresight, meeting reporting guidelines can be relatively simple and straight-forward—read on to learn how to prepare for and successfully submit this required report by the July deadline.
TRI Reports: A Subset of EPCRA
A TRI report is a requirement under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Annual EPCRA reporting, as discussed in our previous blog, is mandatory for all facilities that have handled or stored hazardous chemicals within the past year, and applies to a wide array of industries.
The driving concept behind these reporting guidelines is to promote transparency regarding the types and quantities of chemicals released into the community every year, in order to enable successful emergency planning, compliance, and mitigation to keep the broader community—and the workforce at each facility—safer.
Within the broader coverage of EPCRA documentation, organizations must submit a TRI report. This report, sometimes alternatively referred to as a Form R report, specifically seeks to track chemical releases that occurred over the course of the previous calendar year.
TRI and Public Reporting
Within a TRI report, facility managers must indicate what chemicals of concern have had a measurable release to the surrounding community in the previous year. This granular data allows members of the community to understand what chemicals are being released near them—and the steps that facilities are taking to limit these releases.
TRI reports are publicly accessible—meaning anyone can view, analyze, and use the information contained within them. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) manages and regulates EPCRA reporting, other government agencies, like the US Department of Health and Human Services and other more localized governmental bodies, use it to track pollution across regions.
If your organization is officially required to submit a TRI report, failure to do so leaves your organization noncompliant—which can result in hefty fines and lost work time as you scramble to prepare a report to correct the violation. Reporting failures may also expose you to major risks—if a chemical emergency does occur, local responders may not have all the information they need for a timely and efficient response, leaving your employees, operations, community, and general regional environmental health at risk.
Common TRI Reporting Objections—and Clarification
Those that don’t understand the crucial importance of TRI reporting will often raise the same objections to it. And across the more than two dozen states in which I have assisted facilities file their Form R report, the same concerns are continually raised:
- “My company doesn’t have the money for this!”
- “We don’t allow spills to go uncleaned at our facility, so this is irrelevant to us.”
- “We have localized spills, but they are never released into the environment!”
While it is true that this report certainly accounts for all noticeable releases, it also challenges facility managers to account for the less obvious ways in which chemicals make their way into the surrounding communities—negating common objections. For instance, bending and welding of metals releases microscopic amounts of chemical constituents into the air. Solvent containers, left to vent after emptying, release unseen particles into the surrounding atmosphere. Pollutants from these and other processes can then escape into the environment through open doors, windows, and vents. As such, a TRI report seeks to capture all EPCRA-regulated chemical releases—even those that may not be immediately obvious.
Does My Facility Need to File?
To determine if you need to file, there are two main considerations:
- North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code: The NAICS groups facilities into categories based on industry and production processes. This six-digit code allows for quick, general reference of the operations for each facility. Certain NAICS codes require TRI reporting, while others do not. As such, determining your NAICS code is an important first step to understanding if your facility falls in an industry sector required to submit a TRI report.
- Facility chemical types: Only certain chemicals must be listed on a TRI report—if those chemicals have not been used within the last year at your facility, it’s likely you are not required to submit. To determine your compliance requirements, analyze all TRI-listed chemicals and cross reference these with the chemicals your facility has manufactured, processed, or otherwise used within the past year.
Steps to File
Organizations typically expend most of their TRI reporting time and effort in chemical inventory management—including creation of an accurate inventory of hazardous chemical use throughout the previous calendar year as well as accurate determinations for potential methods and amounts of release of TRI-listed chemicals.
There are great advantages to establishing an efficient and thorough chemical inventory management program. For one, the information you gather will help determine if you meet reporting requirements. Also, since a robust chemical inventory requires collection of all requisite data into one highly accessible repository, reporting is streamlined and straight-forward.
Each year, as the reporting deadline approaches, you should:
- Leverage your chemical inventory system to track material use. Accurate material use information will ensure all relevant information is in one readily-accessible and condensed location. This can be a large and daunting task if you don’t already have a comprehensive, auto-updating, accurate, and customizable chemical tracking software in place. Regardless of whether or not you have a system like this in place yet, implement one for future use—it will simplify and streamline any and all future reporting.
- Fully audit your processes and the ways in which releases may be generated, especially those that may be unseen. Full understanding of the sources of chemical pollution within the workplace will ensure you accurately and compliantly report, based on your operations.
- Estimate how much material in your chemical inventory might have escaped. Based on your processes and chemical inventories, determine how much material may have escaped between the time of material acquisition and final production. This process, sometimes called a mass balance, will give you an idea of potential quantities that need to be stated on the Form R report.
- Prepare for reporting. Using the TRI-MEweb software, submit your TRI chemical release information in conjunction with your EPCRA form submission.
- Start early. It can be a daunting task to accurately track chemical inventories, gather required information, and report on time. As such, it is crucial to begin filling out the TRI report as early as possible, year after year. In fact, it is a best practice to start the routine in the early spring of each year, if not earlier. Early preparation will keep you on the ball and ensure compliance—helping you avoid fines and saving you the headache of rushing to complete it at the last minute. The earlier you can begin preparations, the more the report is an exercise in analyzing your facility’s impact on the community and where you can improve in the future—instead of a complex, time-consuming headache.
Need a TRI Reporting Partner?
Some six weeks remain before the July 1 reporting deadline—are you prepared? Luckily, you don’t need to suffer the ordeal of trying to analyze and satisfy all of the TRI reporting requirements on your own.
Triumvirate Environmental has an experienced team of consultants who are dedicated to helping you achieve regulatory compliance. We also offer a chemical inventory management system that we can quickly implement for the long-term—saving you the hassle of tracking chemical inventory by hand. Interested in learning more? Contact us today—let’s talk about your needs.