North Carolina’s industrial facilities emit or discharge an average of more than a half-ton of pollution per square mile, which places the state among the top third nationwide based on that measurement.
With 1,022 pounds per square mile, North Carolina is ranked 19th of 56 states and US territories, according to recent Toxics Release Inventory released by the EPA.
The Toxics Release Inventory is composed of 755 individual chemicals that the EPA has deemed significantly harmful to human health and the environment.
Companies, such as utilities, manufacturers and mining interests, that emit or discharge chemicals on the TRI list above certain thresholds must report the amounts, as well as their waste management and pollution prevention activities, to the EPA by July 1 of each year. Small companies, those employing fewer than 10 workers, are exempt from the reporting requirement.
However, the list of TRI chemicals is not comprehensive. The 2018 data do not reflect emissions and discharges of perfluorinated compounds — PFAS. The 2020 data will include PFAS as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress in December 2019. Now industry is required to report production, management and disposal of any of the 172 types of PFAS.
There are 779 TRI facilities in North Carolina. Collectively, they generate 501.4 million pounds of waste. Nearly 40 million pounds are disposed of on-site, in the water, air, or on land. Fifteen million pounds are transported off-site. The majority — 446 million pounds — is recycled, treated or used for energy recovery.
New Hanover County tops the state in total pounds of chemicals “managed” — generated — with 183.3 million pounds. Fortron Industries, a chemical company, is the county’s largest pollution source; it disposed of more than 1.8 million pounds of chemicals, all of it off-site. Elementus Chromium disposed of 1.67 million pounds on-site.
Beaufort County has the largest TRI pollution source — PCS Phosphate, a mining company and chemical plant. In 2018 it disposed of or released 5.5 million pounds of chemicals, accounting for nearly all the the TRI pollutants in the county. About two-thirds of PCS Phosphate’s emissions enter the air; the rest are disposed of on land.
Here are the top 10 counties in pounds of chemicals generated. Scroll down for the entire list, pounds generated and largest pollution sources.
The TRI site can be a rabbit hole, so here’s a quick primer on how to dig deeper into the site:
Start on the main page.
From here you can type in or click on North Carolina. The next page will give you a summary of North Carolina releases, emissions and disposal methods. It also lists the top five chemicals emitted into the air and discharged into the water.
If you want to search by county, you can click on the map on this page, or an easier way is to return to the main page, type in North Carolina and the county name.
For example, Columbus County shows there are five TRI facilities, which generate a total of 7 million pounds of chemicals; the largest pollution source is International Paper in Riegelwood, with 3 million pounds.
If you want to search by chemical, start on the Data and Tools page.
The next page shows that 17,658 pounds of the compound were released in 2018 in North Carolina. Select “1,4-Dioxane” and you’ll see a list of companies that report discharging or emitting the compound.
Alternately click on the small arrows at the top of the 1,4-Dioxane column for more detail on air and water emissions.
And if you’re still hungry for more information, the TRI offers a deeper dive on “Factors to Consider When Using TRI Data.”
Below is a county-level summary. Not all counties have a TRI facility. If a county is listed as “0” that means its companies did not report any TRI chemicals in 2018.
|Toxics Release Inventory, 2018|
|COUNTY||NO OF FACILITIES||POUNDS MANAGED||LARGEST POLLUTION SOURCE||POUNDS DISPOSED/ RELEASED ON-SITE/
OFF-SITE BY LARGEST POLLUTION SOURCE
|ALAMANCE||12||349,300||SOUTH ATLANTIC GALVANIZING||93,558|
|ALEXANDER||4||187,700||PIEDMONT COMPOSITES AND TOOLING||23,010|
|ANSON||5||3||EDWARDS WOOD PRODUCTS||3|
|BLADEN||8||5,100,000||SMITHFIELD TAR HEEL||2,9521,01|
|BUNCOMBE||23||14,900,000||DUKE ENERGY STEAM PLANT||3,180,810|
|CATAWBA||26||23,300,000||DUKE ENERGY MARSHALL||2,291,146|
|COLUMBUS||5||7,000,000||INTERNATIONAL PAPER RIEGELWOOD||3,004,487|
|CRAVEN||7||12,200,000||INTERNATIONAL PAPER NEW BERN MILL||678,361|
|DARE||2||4,000||DARE COUNTY BOMB RANGE||3,699|
|DAVIDSON||11||640,500||ELECTRIC GLASS FIBER AMERICA||14,269|
|DUPLIN||9||278,400||HOUSE OF RAEFORD||133,266|
|FORSYTH||25||16,100,000||ARDAGH METAL BEVERAGE||611,188|
|GASTON||23||5,100,000||DUKE ENERGY ALLEN||148,454|
|HALIFAX||6||11,000,000||KAPSTONE KRAFT PAPER||1,060,739|
|HAYWOOD||3||1,3900,000||BLUE RIDGE PAPER||2,516,225|
|HENDERSON||17||3,700,000||BLUE RIDGE METALS||204,626|
|JOHNSTON||11||560,800||RAVEN ANTENNA/GLOBAL SKYWARE||16,558|
|JONES||1||4,600||ROWMARK CUSTOM LAMINATIONS||4,600|
|LENOIR||8||872,300||SANDERSON FARMS ST PAULS||56,557|
|LINCOLN||10||821,900||ROBERT BOSCH TOOL||95,894|
|MCDOWELL||3||111,200||BAXTER HEALTH CARE||29,184|
|MECKLENBURG||60||9,400,000||CHARLOTTE PIPE AND FOUNDRY||620,309|
|NEW HANOVER||13||183,300,000||FORTRON INDUSTRIES||1,859,946|
|PERQUIMANS||1||5||HARVEY POINT DEFENSE TESTING ACTIVITY||5|
|PITT||11||1,200,000||GRADY WHITE BOATS||155,466|
|RICHMOND||5||663,000||DUKE ENERGY SMITH ENERGY||318,336|
|ROBESON||11||2,800,000||SANDERSON FARMS ST PAULS||149,144|
|ROCKINGHAM||10||6,500,000||EDEN CUSTOM PROCESSING||189,013|
|ROWAN||21||5,700,000||SOUTHERN CO ROWAN POWER PLANT||78,010|
|RUTHERFORD||9||13,600,000||DUKE ENERGY ROGERS||1,130,555|
|STOKES||2||10,500,000||DUKE ENERGY BELEWS CREEK||598,228|
|SURRY||9||1,600,000||WAYNE FARMS DOBSON FRESH PLANT||225,834|
|SWAIN||2||12,000||NOT REPORTED||NOT REPORTED|
|WASHINGTON||1||1||MURPHY BROWN NEW COLONY MILL||1|
|WAYNE||9||230,100||GEORGIA-PACIFIC WOOD PRODUCTS||61,546|
|WILSON||7||837,100||ALLIANCE ONE INTERNATIONAL||79,185|