Good Neighbour Campaigns

National Pollution Data – NPRI

The National Pollutant Release Inventory is a source of information on major polluters across Canada.

Legislated by the Canada Environmental Protection Act (CEPA, 1999), the NPRI requires facilities to report toxic releases into the environment and transfers of approximately 350 chemicals to Environment Canada.

Annual reports (released two years after the reported year) contain detailed information about onsite emissions to air, water and land, as well as transfers of hazardous waste off-site for disposal, treatment or recycling. The reports are publicly accessible online.

How do I access NPRI information?

Environment Canada houses the reporting data online at the National Pollutant Release Inventory website. The database of reports is searchable by province, postal code, town, chemical, facility name or industrial sector.

Information is now also available as layers for Google Earth maps.

See also the guide to understanding NPRI data.

How is NPRI information useful?

The NPRI data can be cross-referenced by company, industry and substances. This allows the user to identify polluters in their area. Residents can target companies to take action against or to work with them in reducing and eliminating listed substances.

NPRI data can be used to map local pollution sources, compare chemical releases from year to year at a particular facility, compare a company’s releases in various locations across Canada, as well as to engage and educate the public and environmental regulators to control pollution.

The Toronto GNC noticed that the NPRI data showed that Atlantic Packaging had alarmingly high releases of  hexachlorobenzene (HCB) – a persistent toxin that has health impacts. The GNC asked the company about the reported emission levels and the company explained they were based on a modelling system, not on actual emissions. The Company decided to do actual stack testing at their facility for accurate information, and were able to show that the actual HCB releases were far lower. The NPRI data helped the community understand potential threats, push for answers and prompt the Company to do further research.

What information does the NPRI leave out?

Not all companies report to the NPRI, it generally depends on the number of employees and amount of toxic substances released. The list of reportable chemicals is limited to 350 substances. Some facilities are exempt from reporting – the education sector (i.e. nuclear reactor at U of T) and certain industry sectors (i.e. drilling and mining companies). Small facilities with less than 10 employees, less than 10 tonnes each of listed substances and in concentrations less than one percent are exempt from reporting to the NPRI (with a few exceptions). Many facilities and releases fall below these thresholds which means the public does not have access to their information online. In instances where a facility does have to report they are only required to report on the substances that meet or surpass the reporting threshold

Although it is mandatory to report to the NPRI it is somewhat based on the ‘honour system’ since the Ministry of Environment is severely under resourced to do regular inspections and testing at facilities. In addition, companies are not required to do actual stack testing of their emissions each year, they are required to submit averaged releases based on formulas and models that help to estimate their releases based on production levels and processes, equipment, the types of products used, and any pollution control systems installed.

Toronto Environmental Alliance created a Toxics map of Toronto to show NPRI reported releases across the city. This helped educate and mobilize people to pass Toronto’s Community-Right-to-Know (CRTK) by-law. The CRTK by-law requires reporting of toxic emissions from small facilities that aren’t covered by the NPRI. Read more about it.

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