Why do I need to do TRI reporting?

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Apr 8, 2015

Time to Read 6 Minutes

Learn why your facility may need to conduct TRI Reporting.

The start of every year goes the same way. Recover from the holidays, settle back into a work groove, and start talking about hazardous materials reporting. First it's Tier II Reporting. Then, it's Toxic Release Inventory Reporting.

And, during those first few months of every year, we get folks calling and emailing us asking dozens and dozens of questions, one of the main one's being why do I need to conduct TRI Reporting?

Simply put, TRI Reporting is required at a wide variety of facilities of all shapes and sizes all over the United States. For those required to report, failing to do so, or doing it incompletely or incorrectly can carry very significant penalties. We understand the questions because from our opinion, this is one of the most confusing, oddly enforced environmental regulations out there.

Why do I need to do TRI Reporting?

Why do I need to do TRI Reporting?

Let's assume that you already know what Toxic Release Inventory Reporting is. You already know the difference between TRI and Tier II Reporting. And, let's assume you know what you need to report for TRI Reporting, and when the Toxic Release Inventory Reporting deadline is.

If you don't know all that stuff, click those links and learn more. If you do, continue on.

You need to conduct TRI Reporting because it's the law.

Federal environmental regulations state if you should be reporting, then you must report. There's no way to get around it. If you meet the requirements, then you absolutely must report. If you don't, you'll be subject to penalties from the USEPA (or 3rd party environmental groups) including HUGE monetary fines which can be well over a million dollars.

What are those requirements? They are:

  • Staffing - You need to have at least 10 full-time employees, or their equivalent.
  • Toxic chemicals - You need to manufacture, process, or otherwise use a fairly substantial list of toxic chemicals. There are over 650 chemicals, and the list can be found here. They do not have to be in a pure form. They could be in a mixture, all the way down to less than 1% of the material (or even less for some chemicals). Many of these toxic chemicals are common, meaning they could (and usually are) within many products, materials, and products used in a wide variety of facilities.

Remember, TRI Reporting is for toxic chemicals at your site.

I hear this all the time. Folks saying that they have no toxic chemicals here! I don't have anything toxic, hazardous or dangerous!

Really? Think again.

Take a close look at your SDS for hazardous materials on your site. Likely, a lot of them have information on the toxic chemicals in those hazardous materials. If so, then you have toxic chemicals at your site.

You must process or manufacture those toxic chemicals in excess of 25,000 pounds or "otherwise use" it in excess of 10,000 pounds across the calendar year. So just having the toxic chemical present on your site isn't enough to trigger the need for reporting, it has to be in excess of these thresholds.

But hold on!

Many of the listed toxic chemicals have much lower reporting thresholds, including some that might be present at your facility!

For example, lead has a reporting threshold of only 100 pounds! Lead is a pretty common component of a lot of industrial materials, so this alone might trigger the need for reporting at your facility.

But be advised, some chemicals have an even lower threshold, like mercury with only 10 pounds!

So, is the chemical present at your facility, is it on the list of reportable chemicals, what is the applicable reporting threshold for that listed chemical, and did it exceed the reporting threshold this past year?

If the answer is yes, you'll need to report!

And to further complicate this situation, you need to know that some toxic chemicals that you need to report might not be listed on your SDS. Where are you supposed to find out if it's present, and in what amounts? Unfortunately, wherever you can! The government is concerned that you report; where you find out the information is your problem. 

TRI Reporting is not the same as Tier II Reporting.

We get this almost every time we bring this up. TRI is not the same as Tier II Reporting. It's not even close. They are completely different!

Why do I need to do TRI Reporting?

When wouldn't I need to do TRI Reporting?

Usually, when we see a facility that doesn't have to report, it's on the basis of it not exceeding the chemical reporting threshold.

Typically, they are a listed facility which exceeds the hours of operation test, but just don't have enough toxic chemical use during the course of the year to require reporting.

But, just because you didn't have to report last year doesn't mean you're off the hook forever.

Your circumstances could change year in and year out. We often have to report on a facility one year, and then not the next, and maybe again in a year or two. It all depends on the use of toxic chemicals.

It's usually unnerving to hear a facility that is close to the reporting threshold to say correctly "oh, we checked on that, and we don't have to report".

Oh yeah? Which year, and are you doing EXACTLY the same thing as when you checked? A great piece of advice is to check on your reporting applicability every year, and keep records of what you find out.

If you don't have to report, keep records of your research and documentation to prove it. If you report one year and don't the next, chances are the USEPA is going to contact you and investigate it. It will be your job to prove you don't have to report, and regulators will want to double check your numbers.

Are you thinking enough is enough, let's just hire someone to take care of this? Well in case you're wondering, we've analyzed what we find are pretty common costs and prices for Toxic Release Inventory Reporting, which could help shine some light on how much it would cost to hire an expert.

Reporting is like filing and paying taxes. Yeah, you're probably not thrilled to do it, and it might be more complicated than you can handle, but it has to be done. Failing to do it, or doing it incompletely or inaccurately, carries penalties. To learn more about reporting and if you need to do it at your facility, click here to contact us or give us a call anytime at 609-693-8301 to discuss your reporting needs.

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