ANSWER TO QUIZ AND FAQs

1.    Loudon County consistently ranks in the bottom (worst) 10% in the country in recent releases of EPA’s annual Toxic Release Inventory (TRI). Of  3,000 counties, counted by US Census, only 171 showed more toxic emissions than Loudon in EPA’s annual TRI published in 2015.  These rankings are based solely on reports from the industries themselves.

2.   False. The Clean Air Act and the EPA do not set firm safety standards for emissions of most known toxic chemicals. The EPA only sets guidelines, then mostly defers to the states to decide the degree of risk their citizens should take. In TN, the Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Air Pollution Control Board (APCB) make those determinations. Even then, with rare exceptions, TDEC’s determinations are only for the amount coming from each facility, and not the total amount in the air from all sources.

3.   False. Toxics are frequently harmless at low levels, but harmful at higher concentrations. You cannot establish the exact level where a pollutant becomes harmful to humans without experiments on humans. That would be both illegal and immoral.

4.   False. With rare exceptions, TDEC does not consider the total amount of a toxin already in the air before allowing more. It only looks at the amount put out by each facility separately, without consideration of the total amount in the air we breathe.

5.   Toxic emissions are not systematically monitored in Loudon County. (Only 2 toxics are actually monitored nationwide). As part of a previous litigation settlement, TDEC did monitor some Loudon County air toxics at one time, but that stopped some years ago.

Although the EPA has delegated regulation of most toxics to the state, EPA does take a more active role in regulating 2 smaller groups of emissions. Because these smaller groups get the most media attention, most people assume EPA plays a larger role that it actually does.

Number of separate chemicals included in the TRI 682
Toxics classified by the US Congress as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) 187
Air pollutants subject to EPA National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) 6

All of the media reports about improvement in ozone, PM2.5, and “attainment/non-attainment” are about only some of the 6 chemicals regulated under NAAQS.

If Loudon County air has nationally high levels of industrial toxic emissions, why doesn’t the air look dirty, like smog or haze?

The TRI only measures toxic emissions, not ”junk” in the air.