2016 Analysis of Toxics Release Inventory Data

Every day toxic chemicals are discharged into the Coosa River from factories and power plants that are permitted to do so by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

About Toxic Release Inventory…

Some of these chemicals are especially toxic, being known or suspected to cause cancer, developmental or reproductive issues. In turn, many people in Etowah, St Clair, Talladega, Shelby and Chilton Counties get their drinking water from the Coosa River or fish/swim in her lakes. Coosa Riverkeeper, in our role as a government and industry watchdog, monitors the type and volume of toxic chemicals being release to our river.

Under federal law, companies must self-report how many pounds of each toxic chemical they released to the air, water and land. That data is available to the public via the Toxics Release Inventory database. Each year, Coosa Riverkeeper downloads and analyzes the data, publishing a list of all companies in the Coosa Valley that discharge toxic chemicals to the river. This week, we publish the analysis for chemicals released in 2016, the year with the most recently available data. In 2016, the year of the most recently available data, that meant nearly 1.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals from 32 facilities.

Our Analysis…

This year, #1 Koch Foods of Gadsden and #2 JCG Foods of Collinsville again topped the list, each discharging massive amounts of nitrates to the Neely Henry watershed. They are followed by #3 Resolute Forest Products, a paper mill near Childersburg on Lay Lake, and #4 Gaston Steam Plant, an Alabama Power steam plant on Lay Lake that burns coal and natural gas.
  • Chicken processing plants always dominate the top of the list for total pounds of toxic chemicals.
  • Koch Foods increased their discharge of toxic chemicals by 63.5% from 2015 to 2016 and JCG Foods increased theirs by 27%.
  • Resolute Forest Products and the Gaston Steam Plant both made significant decreases to their toxic discharges in the same time period.
  • Resolute Forest Products released the most pounds of cancer-causing chemicals at 604 pounds, followed by E.C. Gaston Steam Plant at 540 pounds. These numbers are both significant decreases from 2015.
  • The next closest facility, by comparison, was Goodyear Tire & Rubber in Gadsden at 49 pounds.

In all of Alabama in 2016, 11.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals were released to the water, while 25.7 million pounds were landfilled and 29.8 million pounds were released to the air. Alabama ranks 8th amongst all 56 states and territories for total toxic chemical releases per square mile.

This blog post was written by Frank Chitwood, Staff Riverkeeper

*All data is self-reported by industry to the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory. From there, it is accessed by Coosa Riverkeeper, Inc. and analyzed to generate these rankings. Errors and omissions are possible.*

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