Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory: data highlights 2017

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) collects information from Canadian industrial, commercial and institutional facilities on their releases (to air, water and land), disposals, and transfers of pollutants and other substances of concern. Since 1993, owners or operators of facilities that have met the NPRI reporting requirements have reported on an annual basis. Data from the NPRI help track pollution patterns and trends across Canada.

Releases, disposals and transfers

In 2017, 7 001 facilities reported to the NPRI a total of 4 920 807 tonnes covering over 320 substances:

  • 3 226 906 tonnes of pollutants were released directly to the environment
  • 1 693 901 tonnes were disposed to landfills, applied to land or injected underground, either on the facility site or off-site
  • 288 328 tonnes were transferred off the facility site for treatment prior to final disposal or for recycling and energy recovery

 

Breakdown of the total quantities reported in 2017, by reporting category

Long description
Breakdown of the total quantities reported in 2017, by reporting category
Direct releases category Reported quantities (tonnes) Percentage of total reported quantities
Criteria air contaminants 2 998 983 61%
Air (other substances) 78 002 2%
Water 133 846 3%
Land 15 672 <1%
Unspecified media (less than one tonne) 403 <1%
Total reported releases 3 226 906 66%
Disposals and transfers category Reported quantities (tonnes) Percentage of total reported quantities
On-site disposals 235 974 5%
Off-site disposals 100 683 2%
Treatment prior to disposal 46 438 1%
Tailings 845 402 17%
Waste rock 177 076 4%
Transfers for off-site recycling 288 328 6%
Total reported disposals and transfers 1 693 901 34%

Total quantities reported to the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI): 4 920 807 tonnes

Source: NPRI data from September 13th, 2018

In 2017, pollutants most often released to air, such as carbon monoxide (CO) and sulphur dioxide (SO2), were pollutants causing problems like smog and acid rain.

Pollutants most often released to water were nitrate ion solutions, ammonia and phosphorus.

The pollutant most often released to land was ethylene glycol, used as an antifreeze and de-icer for cars and aircraft.

Between 2008 and 2017, releases to the environment reported to the NPRI decreased by nearly 21% (845 277 tonnes):

  • releases to air decreased by 22% ( 838 026 tonnes)
  • releases to water increased by 8% (9 749 tonnes)
  • releases to land increased by 109% (8 168 tonnes)
  • releases of substances (i.e., unspecified media) where the total release quantity was less than one tonne decreased by 49% (386 tonnes)

 

Total direct releases between 2008 and 2017

Long description
Total direct releases between 2008 and 2017
Year Releases to air -criteria air contaminants (tonnes) Releases to air - other substances (tonnes) Releases to water (tonnes) Releases to land (tonnes) Releases to unspecified media (tonnes) Number of NPRI reporting facilities
2008 3 837 010 102 783 124 097 7 504 789 8 843
2009 3 376 496 93 243 119 424 6 000 1 088 8 529
2010 3 364 494 92 744 117 387 11 167 1 924 8 151
2011 3 195 281 80 061 122 527 8 661 28 8 000
2012 3 243 177 83 395 124 420 7 022 309
7 792
2013 3 225 169 85 369 126 717 11 962 90
7 854
2014
3 085 601 83 521 202 028 13 115 404
7 856
2015 2 993 718 80 477 126 908 12 810 391
7 349
2016 2 954 723 82 701 131 763 17 009 401
7 130
2017 2 998 983 78 002 133 846 15 672 403
7 001
Source: NPRI data from September 13th, 2018

Between 2008 and 2017, total disposals and transfers decreased by 4% (74 382 tonnes):

  • off-site disposals decreased by 81% (433 236 tonnes)
  • on-site disposals decreased by 14% (38 724 tonnes)
  • off-site transfers for recycling decreased by 16% (54 115 tonnes)
  • disposals of waste rock (rock removed to reach ore) increased by 1 674% (167 095 tonnes)
  • disposals of tailings (materials left when minerals are removed from ore) increased by 52% (290 609 tonnes)

 

Total disposals and transfers between 2008 and 2017

Long description
Total disposals and transfers between 2008 and 2017
Year On-site disposals (tonnes) Off-site disposals (tonnes) Tailings (tonnes) Waste rock (tonnes)
2008 274 698 533 919
554 793 9 981
2009 267 439 511 789 520 248 11 992
2010 249 659 545 821 617 181 17 433
2011 284 021 341 633 580 220 15 459
2012
242 694 307 551 647 993 31 693
2013 238 553 119 802 692 770 125 261
2014 272 784
98 359 672 048 102 247
2015 269 383
99 444 738 613 79 647
2016 229 023
89 962 780 557 128 731
2017 235 974
100 683 845 402 177 076
Year Treatment prior to disposal (tonnes) Off-site transfers for recycling (tonnes) Number of NPRI reporting facilities
2008 52 449 342 443 8 843
2009 46 189 344 001 8 529
2010 49 873 389 365 8 151
2011 39 578 457 950 8 000
2012
37 396 320 985 7 792
2013 36 559 302 154 7 854
2014 42 786 306 249 7 865
2015 36 372 311 463 7 349
2016 39 366 308 477 7 130
2017 46 438 288 328 7 001
Source: NPRI data from September 13th, 2018

Across Canada

In 2017, the majority of the 7 001 facilities reporting to the NPRI were in Alberta (2 658) and Ontario (1 637).

The majority of facilities located in Alberta were oil and gas extraction operations (shown in yellow on the map below), representing 76% of reporting facilities located in the province.

In Ontario, most of the reporting facilities were manufacturing operations (shown in blue on the map below), accounting for 69% of reporting facilities located in the province.

 

Map of facilities reporting to the NPRI for 2017, by industry sector

Map of facilities reporting to the NPRI for 2016, by industry sector
Long description
Map of facilities reporting to the NPRI for 2017, by industry sector
Province Electricity Manufacturing Mining and quarrying Oil and gas extraction Other sectors Total
Alberta 39
245 26 2 016 332
2 658
Ontario 51
1 126 102 3
355 1 637
Quebec 26 577 39 0 154 796
British Columbia 20
236 29 277
143 705
Saskatchewan 17 54 23 482
134 710
Manitoba 11 90
11 4
64
180
Nova Scotia 8
42
5 8 35
98
New Brunswick 4 42
5
0 18 69
Newfoundland & Labrador 21 9
7
4 22 63
Northwest Territories 26 0 4
2 5 37
Nunavut 25 0 5
0 3
33
Prince Edward Island 2
4
0 0 6
12
Yukon 1
0 1 0 1 3

This table shows the location of the 7 001 facilities that met the 2017 NPRI reporting criteria. 756 additional facilities reported but did not meet the criteria. For consistency, those additional facilities are not included in the calculation.

Source: NPRI data from September 13th, 2018

Pollution prevention plans

Pollution prevention involves identifying the causes of waste and pollution and finding ways to minimize them. Facilities can develop pollution prevention plans in order to examine current operations and determine how to eliminate or reduce pollution at its source.  

In 2017, 1 070 reporting facilities had pollution prevention plans:

  • 730 prepared a plan voluntarily
  • 255 prepared a plan to meet the requirements of another order of government
  • 56 prepared a plan to meet the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 requirements
  • 29 prepared a plan for more than one of the above reasons

Among the pollution prevention plans, 612 addressed substances. Toxic substances targeted by these plans included mercury, benzene, methane, lead, as well as others.

Pollution prevention activities

In 2017, 1 067 facilities implemented pollution prevention activities, totaling 3 147 activities overall:

  • the mining and quarrying sector had the highest percentage of facilities implementing activities at 24 %(62 of their 257 reporting facilities), followed by the electricity sector at 22 %(54 of their 251 reporting facilities)
  • 959 facilities implemented the “Training or good operating practices” activity
 
Activities reported by facilities for 2017
Long description
Activities reported by facilities in 2017
Pollution activity category Number of activities implemented by facilities
Training or good operating practices 959
Spill and leak prevention 719
Equipment or process modifications 422
Improved inventory management or purchasing techniques 194
On-site re-use or recycling 192
Materials or feedstock substitution 161
Product design or reformulation 138
Other pollution prevention activities 362
Source: NPRI data from September 13th, 2018

Access NPRI data

You can use NPRI data on your own. Data are available in various formats at the Government of Canada open data portal and the NPRI datasets webpage.

Source: NPRI data from September 13th, 2018

 

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