While conducting the Audit of the Impact of Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) Late Reporters on the EPA’s Annual TRI National Analysis (Project No. OA&E-FY18-0002), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Inspector General (OIG) decided to issue an immediate management alert informing the agency of our discovery that its TRI data pertaining to releases of hazardous substances from Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) are inaccurate.
As a result, the public is not receiving complete and timely information about environmental conditions affecting human health.
We examined the EPA’s public TRI release data and the impact of the data on the agency’s annual TRI National Analysis.
During our review, the OIG identified discrepancies between (1) the total pounds of chemicals released to the environment as reported in the publicly available TRI data for reporting years 2013–2017 and (2) the information that the EPA provided to us separately on the total pounds of chemicals released. The OIG’s identification of these discrepancies led to the EPA’s discovery that total release calculations provided by the publicly available database do not properly include the POTW release amounts.
The effect for those that query these data, including nearby communities or worldwide researchers, is that they will not always have accurate or consistent information regarding releases of the hazardous substances from POTWs that may significantly impact human health and the environment. The OIG’s audit of the EPA’s TRI data is ongoing, but we found this information to be of sufficient concern to warrant immediate reporting.
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