The amount of toxic substances generated in 2006 by San Diego County businesses and the military jumped 4.5 percent, the second straight increase, according to data released today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. At the same time, toxic releases dropped 2.8 percent.
It’s a familiar position for San Diego County. Since 2001, California has steadily cut the amount of toxic chemicals produced by businesses, while San Diego has seen a steady increase. The county’s toxic releases have jumped 34 percent since 2001. We examined the phenomenon in a story last year.
Most of San Diego’s toxic releases can be traced to three facilities: Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the Nassco shipyard and GE Osmonics, a Vista manufacturer of membranes used in water treatment plants.
The information is published by the EPA in its Toxics Release Inventory, a self-reported database established in 1986 in the wake of the Bhopal disaster, when a poisonous gas leak from a chemical plant in India killed 3,800 nearby residents.
The data offers a limited window into the impact businesses are having on the county. The information is more than a year old when it is released. It does not characterize the risk neighbors face from the pollution. Nor does it say whether each listed facility is complying with the law.
But the data paints a picture of San Diego’s business sector, its major manufacturers and their pollution. The military is responsible for much of the region’s toxic pollution. In 2006, Camp Pendleton’s lead emissions from the bullets Marines fire while training made it the state’s sixth largest producer of bioaccumulative chemicals — substances that pose a threat to human health because they accumulate up the food chain. As small organisms absorb those accumulative chemicals and then get eaten by bigger creatures, the chemicals get concentrated in their tissue. The biological process has raised concerns among health officials worried, for example, about the levels of mercury in tuna.