Toxic Release Totals Continue to Decline

Analysis of data from the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) by the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection (DEP) continues to show a downward statewide in toxic pollutants entering Kentucky’s environment. With continued reduction in reported releases, the potential impact on communities that may be disproportionately impacted has also decreased.

Toxic Release Totals Decline2016.jpgThe Kentucky DEP conducted an analysis of reporting data submitted by industries to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for calendar year 2016. Within Kentucky, there were a total of 421 facilities and 171 chemicals reported for the 2016 calendar year. Of those chemicals reported, 19 were not reported as releases to the environment. It is notable that more than 92 percent of the TRI chemical waste generated during 2016 was recycled, treated, or used for energy recovery, rather than released or disposed of in environmental media (air, water or land).

The reported releases are typically authorized by permits with regulatory limits.  These limits protect human health and the environment. The decrease in releases to the environment can be attributed to production efficiencies, regulatory changes to permitting limits, changes to business practices and pollution prevention activities conducted by Kentucky’s facilities.

Toxic Release Totals Decline2016 2.jpgToxic releases have been on a steady downward trend since 1988. The pattern is indicative of efforts made by facilities and regulators to protect the environment.

According to the reported data:

  • Total releases in eight out of the top 10 Kentucky counties with the highest toxic release amounts in 2015, decreased in the 2016 reporting year. On-site releases in nine of the top 10 Kentucky counties decreased from 2015 to 2016.
  • On-site releases in Kentucky for calendar year 2016 were 43,533,088 pounds. Off-site releases totaled 9,852,475 pounds. The combined total of on-site and off-site releases and disposal were reported as 53,385,563 pounds, according to the 2016 data.
  • In 2016, on-site releases decreased 10,873,894 pounds (-20.0 percent) from 2015 reports, while off-site releases increased 1,914,113 pounds (24.1 percent), and total reductions of 8,959,781 pounds were reported compared to the 2015 reporting year, which is a 14.4 percent decrease for total releases.
  • Total releases or disposal in Kentucky decreased 24.9 percent over the last two reporting cycles (2015 and 2016). Total annual releases since the 2010 reporting year have decreased 43,563,458 which is a 44.9 percent decrease from 2010 reports.
  • On-site releases for the top ten chemicals in 2016 decreased to land (-7.6 percent) and air (-38.0 percent) and increased to surface water (18.7 percent) compared to the 2015 reporting year.
  • Total releases for eight out of the top 10 facilities in Kentucky for 2015 decreased in 2016. The top 10 facilities in 2016 comprise 58 percent of releases from all Kentucky facilities that reported.
  • In 2016, air emissions from Kentucky electrical utilities decreased from 2015 values. Reported air emissions in 2016 are the lowest in 19 years of electrical utility reporting under the Toxic Release Inventory at 21.0 percent of 1998 reported values.
  • When compared to 2015 data, national trends showed a 4.9 percent increase in on-site releases, 20.5 percent decrease in off-site releases, and 1.4 percent increase in total releases during 2016.

For more information on the Toxic Release Inventory, visit

For the 2016 DEP analysis, visit

For additional information on the Kentucky DEP Toxic Release Inventory Analysis for the 2016 Reporting Year, contact Larry Taylor at or by phone at (502) 782-6785.