New inventory keeps tabs on Great Lakes toxic air emissions

Ann Arbor, Mich. — The latest Great Lakes Regional Air Toxic Emissions Inventory – a key resource for environmental management in the binational region – has been released by the Great Lakes Commission.

The largest multijurisdicional effort of its kind in North America, the updated inventory compiles data collected by the eight Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario. Based on 1999 data, it’s the latest version of an annual inventory that tallies toxic air emissions in the Great Lakes region.

“This inventory is an outstanding example of binational cooperation in managing a shared resource,” said Sam Speck, chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “It lays the foundation for air emissions research and also provides the knowledge base for our air management partners to improve air quality in the Great Lakes basin.”

Supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with participation by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, the inventory provides extensive information to guide air quality policy and regulatory decisions. Listing pollutants by type, quantity and source, it covers 213 individual toxic air pollutants emitted by 674 distinct categories of sources and 1,597 different types of processes.

This latest inventory pays special attention to mercury emissions. It includes an overview of regional mercury levels, identifies information gaps and suggests areas where the inventory could be improved. Reported mercury emissions from the eight Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario totaled 47,000 lbs. in 1999, down 26,000 lbs. from the year before.

Sources covered in this inventory fall into two broad categories:

    • Point sources are a single, identifiable location such as a smokestack
    • Area sources are generally too small and numerous to be individually assessed; they include gas stations, dry cleaners and consumer products

The inventory strengthens environmental decisionmaking capabilities by identifying inconsistencies in data collection and analysis across jurisdictions, and encouraging the establishment of standard procedures and protocols. It includes the development of an automated emission estimation and inventory system, and demonstrates the value of the Internet as a means of exchanging environmental data.

One of the main challenges in compiling the inventory was maintaining consistency from one jurisdiction to the next, given differences in data breadth, quality and availability. As a result, the inventory should not be used to compare emissions from one state or province to another but rather to demonstrate the potential of a comprehensive inventory as a decision support tool.

The project team is now compiling the mobile sources portion of the 1999 inventory and an update using data for the year 2000. The team is also designing a searchable Internet database, due for release next year.

Contacts for individual state inventories and the Ontario inventory are:
Rob Altenburg: Pennsylvania DEP, 717-783-9248
David “Buzz” Asselmeier: Illinois EPA, 217-782-5811
Gary Baker: Michigan DEQ, 517-373-7058
Jon Bates: Indiana DEM, 317-233-4226
Bob Bielawa: New York DEC, 518-457-2823
Orlando Cabrera-Rivera: Wisconsin DNR, 608-267-2466
Tom Velalis: Ohio EPA, 614-644-2270
Peter Wong: Ontario MOE, 416-235-6130
Chun Yi Wu: Minnesota PCA, 651-282-5855

For immediate release: December 11, 2002
Contact: Kevin Yam,, office: 734-971-9135


The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors’ appointees from its eight member states.Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer programinvolving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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