EPA Denies Industry Petition to
Remove Phosphoric Acid from Toxics Release List

Daily Environment Report (January 26, 1998)
Copyright 1998 Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.

Phosphoric acid will not be removed from the list of chemicals regulated under the Toxic Release Inventory, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Jan. 23 (63 FR 3566).

In a denial of petition for delisting, the agency said its action was based on its conclusion that the phosphates generated during neutralization of phosphoric acid may cause algal blooms. Algal blooms deplete oxygen in water bodies and have other effects that lead to fish kills and adverse changes in the composition of plant and animal life.

Phosphoric acid was included in the initial list of chemicals and chemical categories established under Section 313 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act. Under the law, certain companies using toxic chemicals on the list are required to report their environmental releases of such chemicals by July 1 of each year.

In a petition filed Nov. 9, 1990, the Fertilizer Institute asked EPA to remove phosphoric acid from the TRI. The Fertilizer Institute's petition was similar to one that Ecolab Inc. submitted Dec. 14, 1989, requesting that EPA delist the acid. Although Ecolab Inc. later withdrew its request, EPA issued a notice in response, stating that the agency would have denied Ecolab's petition due to concern over phosphoric acid's contribution to oxygen depletion in water bodies, or eutrophication (55 FR 25876).

EPA Mulls Phosphates Category

In the notice, EPA also asked for public comment on the creation of a TRI phosphates category that would include the acid. The agency intends to propose the creation of the phosphates category at a later date.

The Fertilizer Institute's petition to delist the acid focused mainly on environmental exposure to phosphoric acid from facilities covered by EPCRA Section 313. The petitioner argued that industrial releases of the chemical have no significant link to eutrophication of the nation's surface waters. However, EPA stated that the adverse effects associated with phosphates, including phosphoric acid, are well-established and cause numerous changes within an entire ecosystem.

The agency said consideration of release or exposure information is not necessary to determine whether to keep the chemical on the list because of its broad impact on ecosystems and well-documented evidence supporting its adverse effects.

EPCRA Section 313(d)(2) listing criteria state that EPA may list a chemical that it determines ''is known to cause or can reasonably be anticipated to cause'' the relevant adverse human health or environmental effect. Eutrophication due to phosphate loading is a well-established adverse effect that causes a number of changes in an ecosystem, so an exposure assessment is not necessary to determine that phosphates meet the listing criterion, according to EPA.

For more information, contact EPA's Dan Bushman, petitions coordinator, (202) 260-3882. For details on EPCRA Section 313 requirements, call the EPCRA Hotline at (703) 412-9877 in the Washington, D.C. area, or (800) 535-0202.

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