17% of People Live Near Toxic Disposal Facilities: Here’s How It Breaks Down in Massachusetts

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Company sites across the United States routinely release toxins into the surrounding land, air, and water, often unbeknownst to surrounding communities.

After an accidental release from a chemical plant in West Virginia in 1985, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Information Act. The law established the EPA Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), which provides citizens with crucial information on locally emitted toxins and the names of emitting companies. The TRI has allowed some states to put in place emissions reduction legislation to protect public health, as was the case when Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker passed legislation in 2019 allocating $2.4 billion resilience to climate change.

Stacker analyzed data from the EPA’s TRI and the US Census Bureau’s five-year survey American Community Survey to identify the percentage of each state’s population living in census tracts with toxic release sites, as well as the companies and facilities responsible for releasing the greatest amounts of toxins each year. These results, released in October 2021, reflect the latest full year of data, 2020, from the 2020 National Analysis dataset.

Keep reading to find out where the most toxins are released in your state, what part of your environment they can pollute, and who is affected. You can also read national history here.

Massachusetts in numbers

– Population living near toxic discharge sites: 18.7%
– 18.5% of the state’s white population
– 14.9% of the state’s Hispanic population
– 12.7% of the state’s black population
– 17.8% of the Native American population of the state
— 16.8% of the state’s Asian population
– 15.2% of the state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
– Total number of sites: 362

In 2019, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker passed a law allocate $2.4 billion to the fight against climate change. In 2020, Solutia, a plastics and rubber manufacturer in Springfield, released approximately 379,000 pounds of toxins in the environment. Calloway Golf Ball Operations released nearly 250,000 pounds of chemicals.

The EPA’s TRI program recognizes 770 chemicals, and any site that manufactures or uses these chemicals at above-average levels can be placed on the TRI list. Chemicals described by TRI as “toxic” are known to cause cancer or other negative health problems, as well as adverse effects on the environment. Facilities report the quantities of chemicals they release each year to TRI, where “release” of a chemical means that it is “emitted into the air or into the water, or placed in a type of terrestrial discharge.”

TRI facilities are generally quite large and deal with electricity, metals, mining, chemicals or hazardous waste. However, not all of the toxic chemicals used by the companies are listed in the TRI, which means that its inventory of toxin-emitting sites is not exhaustive.

Keep reading to find out which states have the most and least people living near toxic dumping sites.

States with the Most People Living Near Toxic Discharge Sites

#1. Wisconsin: 37.3% of the population living near toxic discharge sites
#2. Iowa: 33.5% of the population living near toxic discharge sites
#3. Wyoming: 32.5% of the population living near toxic discharge sites

States with the fewest people living near toxic release sites

#1. Hawaii: 6.5% of the population living near toxic discharge sites
#2. New York: 8.3% of the population living near toxic discharge sites
#3. California: 8.4% of the population living near toxic discharge sites

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