If part of your job is managing your company's regulatory requirements, I'm betting that you're no stranger to starting a sentence with, "What the freak is...?" Depending on my mood and frustration level of the day, I'd hopefully use "freak" or "fudge" but there's no guarantee that I wouldn't be putting a dollar or twelve in the swear jar.
What is it with government agencies and their giving us a steady diet of alphabet soup? It seems like everything is an acronym ... FTA - Failure to Abate ... LEP - Local Emphasis Program, just to name a couple from OSHA's General Duty Clause.
In fact, there are more than 120 acronyms used in the EPA regs and OSHA's General Duty Clause alone. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to work at one of these agencies ... "B, GTLBB1300". "RTT, CYBMBABLT?" ... Translation:"Bob, I'm going to lunch, I'll be back at 1 PM." ... Roger that Tom, can you bring me back a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich?" The only part of that entire convo that I had a shot of decoding was BLT. I can only imagine what they are like socially ... "HBCIBYAD?" ... T: "Hey Babe, can I buy you a drink?"
Back to answering the original question ... "TRI", AKA Form R and Form A, stands for Toxics Release Inventory. TRI is an annual EPA reporting requirement (due July 1st of each year) that is often overlooked by many facilities. This has proven to be a very costly oversight for many companies.
"Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects."
- Will Rogers
I'm continually amazed at the number of our new clients or prospects that have never heard of some of the regulations that could, at the very least, drastically disrupt their business if remained unchecked. I contribute it to the number of companies out there that have either a part-time EHS manager, Safety/Environmental Manager that has a primary knowledge of one or the other, or don't have a EHS Manager at all.
Therefore, I am going to write a periodic blog series called "What the..." where I'll cover some of the regulator issues that tend to get overlooked, in certain situations. Some topics may be elementary for some but hopefully valuable for other. No promises, but I'll do my best to try and make them somewhat entertaining/interesting.
If you are familiar, comfortable, and confident with your company's reporting or exemption status of TRI ... AND enjoy this part of your job, then stop reading here.
Warning:Do not drive or operate heavy machinery while reading or within 2 hours of reading the rest of this blog ... it's a yawner!
UNDERSTANDING TRI REPORTING
The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program is a part of the Superfund Authorization and Amendments Act (SARA).
The TRI Program requires that certain toxic chemicals be tracked annually to show how much is released into the environment or how much is managed through recycling, energy recovery and treatment. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) investigates cases of non-compliance. It may also issue civil penalties such as fines, and require correction of the violation.
In addition to complying with the law, the TRI Program forces businesses in certain industries covered by the requirement to take a closer look at how they manage toxic chemicals that could be potentially harmful to humans or the environment.
TRI typically covers larger facilities in industries such as:
Electric power generation
Hazardous waste treatment
WHO MUST COMPLY WITH TRI REQUIREMENTS?
Facilities must report release and other waste management information pursuant to EPCRA Section 313 if they:
have 10 or more full-time employees or the equivalent;
are in a covered NAICS code; and
exceed any one threshold for manufacturing (including importing), processing, or otherwise using a toxic chemical listed.
A CONSULTANT’S VIEWPOINT: HOW ESSG CAN HELP WITH COMPLIANCE
To help you better understand how ESSG can help your company with TRI reporting, one of our consultants gives an overview of our process, and then answers some frequently asked questions:
Question: Can you briefly explain how the process begins?
Answer: First, we screen your company's chemical inventory using our regulatory screening software (within SDSguru) to identify and aggregate the products that have TRI candidates.
Then if the data identifies you as an obvious or likely TRI reporting candidate, we collect a TRI information form that provides us with client information that we don't already know. Some of the important things on the form include the technical contact, public contact, and their NAICS code. These contacts are important because the EPA system requires that there be certifying officials at your business who will certify the TRI information once it’s been completed.
Question: Why is it important to know who the certifying official will be at the beginning of the process?
Answer: Because the certifying official has to have an electronic signature agreement (ESA) and those take time for the EPA to set up because the official has to sign some paperwork and send it in. This can take up to a couple of weeks so it’s really important that there is a certifier that is able to certify for the company from the very beginning.
Question: What other important information do you gather on the form?
Answer: We ask questions to get a production comparison. This is important because it shows how a company is doing in terms of production as compared to previous years. Are they up? Are they down? What are the production ratios?
Question: What do you do with the data on from the form once it’s completed?
Answer: We will analyze the information on the sheet in order to give us an idea of what’s happening within the company; whether or not they are treating things onsite or offsite, for example. This is just more to start a conversation for follow-up meetings.
Question: Is the client required to supply any other information with the data from the form?
Answer: Initially, we provide a candidate list form, which is generated from the company's chemical inventory, along with the information form. The candidate list, asks for quantities as it relates to specific products that have TRI chemicals in them. In other words, the system doesn't ask for quantities of things that don’t matter. So we first need to get a good picture. Are these quantities correct? So the client will confirm or modify this information so our system can get a more accurate report.
Question: Once the quantity information is provided, what happens next?
Answer: We have a follow-up online meeting with the client to explain our findings, clarify any questions, and gather any additional information needed.
Question: How do you ultimately determine what chemicals need to be reported for TRI?
Answer: We will look at aggregate chemical totals that are 10,000 or 25,000 lbs. or greater and depending on if the product is manufactured, processed or otherwise used.
Question: Can you give us an example scenario?
Answer: Yes, if we have 176,000 lbs. of copper, that’s one of many that we need to be concerned with. So what we do then is, instead of filing based off that information, we have another conversation. And so we will go back to the company to verify these percentages, because the SDS, many times, will have chemical percentages that do not add up to 100%. If you add up all of the product's chemical constituent percentages, they may total 180% or 190%, and anything over 100% is impossible. And so what we’ll do is request for more scientific data, possibly a mill test report (mill spec) for a metal, to see; 1) if the percentages given by the mill spec are more accurate percentages than the SDS, or 2) determine if the chemical is even present in the product. For instance, lead, may shows that it is in a product based off the SDS and sometimes it’s actually not even in the product at all.
Question: So then do you file the reports for the client?
Answer: Yes, we prepare their reports on their behalf on the EPA's TRI website. However, the company's Certifying Official has to be the one who actually hits the submit button. That is why we have several different meetings with the client so they understand what information they are submitting.
If we're able to eliminate their reporting requirement(s) through our process of elimination, we provide them with the documentation and calculations to justify the non-submittal for their records or in the event they are audited by EPA.
MORE ABOUT TRI DEADLINES
TRI reports are due July 1 of each year based on the previous year’s inventory amounts.
EPCRA Section 325 allows civil and administrative penalties ranging up to $10,000-$75,000 per violation or per day per violation when facilities fail to comply with the reporting requirements.
EPA’s Online TRI Thresholds Determination Tutorial: