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magazine / mj96

May/June 1996 issue


Pollution by the tonne
A SULPHUROUS CLOUD is issuing from the stacks at the refinery down the road from your home. You wonder, what's in that smoke? If the fumes contain any of the 178 substances listed in the National Pollutant Release Inventory, then the federal government can tell you how much of it comes out of those stacks every year. All facilities with 10 or more full-time employees that use 10 tonnes or more of a listed substance in a year must file an annual estimate on the quantity of that substance released into the environment. The first reports showed 1,468 facilities released 227,630 tonnes of various pollutants in 1993. Reports for 1994 are not yet available.

Pollutants released in each province, by greatest tonnage*, and location of major sources
British Columbia
Copper (mining): 12,504 tonnes (water)
Methanol (pulp/paper): 7,912 tonnes (air, water)
Zinc (mining): 3,407 tonnes (water)


Ammonia (fertilizers, refining): 17,875 tonnes (air, underground)
Methanol (chemicals, pulp/paper, refining): 2,373 tonnes (air, underground)
Diethanolamine (refining): 1,021 tonnes (air, underground)


Methanol (pulp/paper, mining): 497 tonnes (air)
Chlorine (pulp/paper): 347 tonnes (air)
Ammonia (fertilizers, refining, chemicals): 308 tonnes (air)


Ammonia (fertilizers): 2,533 tonnes (air)
Zinc (mining, smelting): 1,422 tonnes (air, land)
Ammonium nitrate (fertilizers): 241 tonnes (water, air, land)

Xylene (manufacturing): 6,369 tonnes (air)
Methanol (pulp/paper): 5,825 tonnes (air, water)
Toluene (manufacturing): 5,564 tonnes (air)


Sulphuric acid (chemicals): 67,315 tonnes (water)
Methanol (forestry): 5,524 tonnes (water)
Zinc (mining): 4,495 tonnes (land)

New Brunswick

Methanol (pulp/paper): 4,077 tonnes (water)
Aluminum (power generation): 1,046 tonnes (land)
Chlorine (pulp/paper): 708 tonnes (air)

Nova Scotia

Methanol (pulp/paper): 1,105 tonnes (water)
Chlorine (pulp/paper): 434 tonnes (air)
Sulphuric acid (pulp/paper): 208 tonnes (water)

Prince Edward Island

Ethylene glycol (aviation): 17 tonnes (land)


Ethylene glycol (aviation): 125 tonnes (land)
Lead (chemicals): 1 tonne (land)

Northwest Territories

Arsenic (mining): 3,804 tonnes (underground)
Xylene (refining): 9 tonnes (air)
Toluene (refining): 6 tonnes (air)

*Releases with the greatest tonnage are not necessarily the most harmful. Some substances are extremely toxic, others less so. The potential for harm depends on the nature of the pollutant, its concentration, the method and timing of its release, and the environment into which it is introduced.

Source: National Pollutant Release Inventory (Figures are current updates of 1993 data.)



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