Harris County Among Nation’s Worst Air, Water Polluters

The Environmental Protection Agency is releasing its latest Toxics Release Inventory. The annual study publishes information on releases of toxic chemicals into the air, land and water. Once again, Harris County ranks as one of the most polluted in the nation.


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The inventory names the twenty U.S. counties with the largest toxic chemical releases in 2010, the latest year for which complete data is available. Harris County topped the list in air pollution, with more than 12 million pounds of toxic emissions, about the same as in 2009. Its nearest competitor — Humphreys County, Tennessee — emitted just over 7 million pounds.

Harris also took a distant second place for surface water pollution. The county discharged more than 2.5 million pounds of wastewater. The leader was Indiana’s Spencer County with more than 24 million pounds.

The TRI shows nearly 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment nationwide in 2010.  Total air releases fell 6% from 2009, continuing a trend seen over the past several years. Surface water releases increased 9% and releases into land 28% since 2009, both due mainly to releases from the metal mining sector.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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