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Utah Ranks Second for Toxic Releases

Utah’s near the top of the nation’s list for toxic releases once again, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

More than 21,000 companies reported releasing more than 25 billion pounds of toxic chemicals to the nation’s environment in 2013.

Caitlin Briere, who analyzes data at EPA, says the latest Toxics Release Inventory, or TRI, provides people tools to understand their neighborhood’s environment.

“There’s a section of the report, called Where You Live,” she says, “where people can drill down to a very local level and find out information about TRI facilities and releases right in their area as far down as the ZIP code level.”

Utah ranked second on this year’s list thanks to the massive open pit mine west of Salt Lake City.

Kyle Bennett, spokesman for Rio Tinto Kennecott, says natural metals, like copper and lead, help explain he high ranking.

“When we take dirt and rock from one location and we put that in another location, as a requirement by the EPA, we have to report that,” he says. “And we move a significant amount of material each year.”

Tooele County facilities rounded out Utah’s top five, accounting for just over one percent of the toxics. One was US Magnesium on the western edge of the Great Salt Lake. The other was the Clean Harbors Grassy Mountain Landfill for hazardous wastes.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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