TRI Reporting: Lead and the “Qualified Alloys”
The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) is a national, publicly available database that summarizes toxic chemical releases reported annually by industrial and federal facilities. It is a great resource that distributes vital information to the public and is used to inform decision-making by communities, government agencies, and others. Unfortunately, completing the annual July 1 disclosure report (commonly known as the TRI Report) that contributes to the database can be quite a headache for regulated industries.
The TRI report is required for any facility that manufactures, processes, or otherwise uses a reportable chemical over applicable thresholds. There are approximately 650 chemicals and 30 chemical categories that are subject to this regulation – you can download the full list here.
U.S. Compliance has a comprehensive article summarizing who is required to report and what common pitfalls they might encounter that can be referenced in this blog post. In general, facilities with 10 or more full-time employees that process more than 25,000 pounds in aggregate, or use greater than 10,000 pounds of any one TRI chemical, are required to report annually. These reports require facilities to disclose how much of the chemical they “released” in the calendar year, including air emissions, wastes sent for recycling or disposal, and discharges to stormwater or local wastewater treatment plants.
Get Started Early
Even though TRI reports for the 2020 calendar year won’t be due until July 1, it’s important to make sure that you have a plan to collect all the information needed to prepare and submit the report. Not only must facilities track their usage or generation of TRI-reportable materials, but they must also quantify their associated releases from those operations. This requires detailed information and a thorough understanding of the regulation. Many industries may struggle to retroactively assemble this data before the deadline. If you haven’t already devised a system for tracking this information, it’s best to begin doing so now. This process will likely require consultation with both chemical/material suppliers and other parties, such as waste haulers, recyclers, etc.
This is especially true for facilities that process or use metals. The EPA’s list of toxic chemicals includes a number of elemental metals. These metals are reportable not only if they are manufactured, processed, or otherwise used in pure form, but also if they are present as a constituent of an alloy. Because of this, in order to determine if you must file a TRI report, it is essential that you track the amount of metal that you use or process in a year. In addition, you will have to acquire information regarding the composition of those metals to determine if any reportable constituents are present. This information can be found by reviewing metal certifications or safety data sheets.
Determining Lead Reportability
One prominent metal that is subject to TRI reporting is lead, which is not surprising given its known deleterious effects on human health and the environment. Due to these effects, lead is further classified as a persistent bioaccumulative toxic (or PBT). While most chemicals are subject to the 25,000/10,000-pound threshold described above, PBTs are even more tightly regulated and have lower reporting thresholds. For lead, a facility must only use or process 100 pounds in a given year in order for it to be reportable. Like all reportable metals, even if lead is present within an alloy, it must be counted toward this reporting threshold. However, unlike other metals, the type of alloy that contains the lead impacts this reporting threshold due to an exception known as “qualified alloys.” Under this exception, lead contained with the qualified alloy groups of stainless steel, brass, and bronze reverts to the traditional reporting thresholds of 25,000/10,000-pounds. Lead that is not contained in one of these alloys is subject to a 100-pound reporting threshold.
Therefore, a facility is required to complete a TRI report for lead under either of the following circumstances:
- Facility manufactures, processes, or otherwise uses more than 100 pounds of lead NOT contained within a qualified alloy
- Facility manufactures or processes more than 25,000 pounds or otherwise uses 10,000 pounds of lead, including lead contained within a qualified alloy
Lead Contained in a Non-Qualified Alloy
If lead at your facility is used in pure form or in a non-qualified alloy, it is reportable at 100 pounds of annual usage. It’s important to note that it is not necessarily uncommon for lead to be found in a non-qualified alloy. In addition, because lead is a PBT, there is no regulatory de minimis level under which it is not required to be counted toward the reporting threshold. Therefore, even a trace amount of lead could be reportable if it is identified as present within a non-qualified alloy.
Lead Contained in a Qualified Alloy
If lead is present at your facility in a qualified alloy, you must assess applicability against the 25,000/10,000-pound reporting threshold. The EPA does not provide specific definitions for the qualified alloys but instead provides the following descriptions:
- Stainless steel – a steel with a chromium content of 4% or more
- Bronze – an alloy consisting primarily of copper and tin
- Brass – an alloy consisting primarily of copper and zinc
Additional information that can be used to determine if an alloy used at your facility is considered a qualified alloy can be found in Appendix A of the EPA guidance document on the topic here.
In totaling the usage of lead within these alloys, a facility may use a de minimis level of 0.1%, meaning if lead is a constituent of a qualified alloy at less than 0.1%, it need not be counted toward the threshold. However, you MUST also include lead that is not contained in one of these qualified alloys in this assessment, if it is present. Therefore, your final total should reflect all lead that is present at the facility and not just lead contained in qualified alloys.
If a facility processes or uses lead in a metal alloy, several considerations must be taken to determine TRI reportability. If the alloy is not brass, bronze, or stainless steel, the lead is reportable at 100 pounds and no de minimis level may be claimed. If the lead is found within a qualified brass, bronze, or stainless steel alloy, the threshold is raised to the traditional 25,000/10,000-pound amount. Only qualified alloys that contain lead at more than the de minimis level of 0.1% must be included in this calculation, along with any lead that is present in a non-qualified alloy. Once one of these thresholds is exceeded, a TRI report is required. It is possible for a facility to exceed one or both reporting criteria in a single year.