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A National Pollutant Release Inventory for Canada: The Final Report of the Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee (December 1992)


The NPRI Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee recommends that implementation of the NPRI begin in 1993, and continue in subsequent years. The Committee believes that the NPRI should provide significant benefits to the Canadian public, industry and governments (as described in the statement of purpose, chapter 3 of this report).

In this chapter, the Committee recommends to the Minister for the Environment the design of the NPRI for the 1993 reporting year. The Committee believes that through these recommendations the NPRI can achieve its stated purpose, while respecting its underlying principles (chapter 2). As experience with the NPRI is gained, however, the recommendations may require review. For this reason, the focus is on 1993.


Section 16 of Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) should be used as the legislative authority for the inventory in order to allow the NPRI to begin operating as soon as possible. This section of CEPA enables the Minister to "publish a notice requiring any person described in the notice to provide the Minister with such information and samples referred to in subsection (2) as may be in the possession of that person or to which that person may reasonably be expected to have access."


The Committee recommends that any facility meeting condition A, as outlined below, report to the NPRI once a year on each substance meeting condition B:

Condition A

  • A facility with 10 or more full-time employees, or part-time employees who work the equivalent number of hours.
  • An employee is considered to work full time if he or she works 2,000 hours per year. Therefore, any facility whose employees collectively work 20,000 or more person-hours a year would meet this condition.

Condition B

  • A facility that manufactures, processes, or otherwise uses2 10 tonnes or more per year of a substance on the NPRI list, at a concentration of 1 % or greater.

The substance may be used or produced intentionally or as a by-product; it may be in a pure or impure form; or it may be part of a mixture in a 1 % or greater concentration. In all cases, only the quantity of each individual substance is to be considered in determining whether it has to be reported.

These conditions are similar to those used for reporting to the United States Toxic Release Inventory (U.S. TRI), thus facilitating comparisons between the two countries. They are also based on the principle that the NPRI should not pose an unreasonable burden on facilities that have to report. Condition A takes into account the facility's size, as well as the technical expertise likely to be available. Condition B is intended to make it easy for facilities to determine whether or not they have to report.3


Facilities involved in the following activities should be exempt from reporting into the NPRI:

4.3.1. The distribution or retail sale of fuels

Facilities such as service stations or pipelines, involved in the distribution or retail sale of fuels, would be unreasonably burdened by reporting to the NPRI. These facilities do not have reasonable access to the type of expertise necessary to report to the NPRI, and it is more practical to obtain release estimates by other means (marketing data, for example).

4.3.2. The maintenance and repair of transportation equipment

It would be unreasonably burdensome for facilities that maintain and repair transportation equipment to report to the NPRI; information on the quantity of NPRI substances in some products they use, such as oils and lubricating fluids, is not readily available. Therefore, it would be difficult to determine whether they used 10 tonnes or more of a particular NPRI substance in a given year.

4.3.3. Wholesale or retail sales of manufactured articles or products

One would not expect facilities involved in the wholesale or retail sales of manufactured articles or products to meet the reporting conditions. However, to avoid any unforeseen problems from arising, these facilities should be formally exempt from reporting to the NPRI.

4.3.4. Education: universities, colleges and schools

Facilities involved in education would be unreasonably burdened if they had to report to the NPRI. These facilities use small quantities of many different mixtures, which may or may not contain NPRI substances. In addition, they may not have a centralized purchasing system through which to track the quantities used. Therefore, it would be difficult to determine whether they used 10 tonnes or more of a particular NPRI substance in a given year. However, commercial activities in educational facilities should not be exempt from reporting to the NPRI.

4.3.5. Research and testing

Research and testing laboratories would be unreasonably burdened by the need to report, given the difficulty of determining whether or not they meet the 10-tonne reporting condition. The difficulty comes from the fact that these facilities use small quantities of many different mixtures, that may or may not contain NPRI substances. Therefore, it would be difficult to determine whether they used 10 tonnes or more of a particular NPRI substance in a given year.

4.3.6. The growing, harvesting and management of renewable natural resources, but not their processing

The Committee does not expect facilities involved in growing, harvesting and managing renewable natural resources (such as fisheries, forestry and agriculture), to meet the reporting conditions. To avoid unforeseen problems, however, these facilities should be formally exempt from reporting to the NPRI.

On the other hand, facilities that process natural resources, such as pulp and paper mills and food processing plants, should not be exempt from reporting.

4.3.7. Mining

Facilities that mine materials containing listed substances are exempt from reporting; those engaged in processing these mined materials are not exempt. Therefore, facilities engaged in milling and smelting should not be exempt from reporting.

4.3.8. Oil and gas wells

Facilities engaged in drilling or operating oil and gas wells are exempt from reporting. The natural variability in the composition of crude oil and gas would make reporting difficult.

Processors of crude oil and natural gas, such as gas processing plants, synthetic crude plants and large-scale heavy oil operations, should not be exempted from reporting to the NPRI.


NPRI substances contained in articles manufactured and shipped by a facility should be exempt from reporting; such a transaction does not have to be reported as a release or a transfer. Similarly, NPRI substances incorporated in articles that a facility buys but does not process, are also exempt from reporting requirements.

While not dissenting from this recommendation, the environmental groups and labour representatives expressed concerns about exempting articles and products, because they are a potentially significant source of releases. They believe that releases resulting from the use or disposal of articles and products should be tracked.


The Committee has agreed that the 178 substances appended to this report should serve as the NPRI list of substances during 1993, the first reporting year.

The list was derived from the 1990 U.S. TRI List, after deleting substances or classes of substances that are either not used in Canada at all, or are used in quantities smaller than one tonne per year, according to the CEPA Domestic Substances List (DSL). The one tonne cut-off was chosen as a reasonable compromise between the possible under-reporting of quantities to the DSL, and the NPRI reporting condition of 10 tonnes. These substances accounted for less than 1 % of the mass of all TRI substances on the DSL (and, presumably, for a very small proportion of their total potential releases to the Canadian environment).

Also removed from the list were pesticides, ozone-depleting substances and certain regulated or banned substances. The Committee's discussion of these substances can be found in section 5.3.1.

About two thirds of the substances that were deleted from the TRI are not used in Canada, and so are not on the DSL. Should these substances (or any others) enter the Canadian marketplace, however, they will come to Environment Canada's attention through the New Substances Notification Regulations of CEPA, and could then be added to the NPRI list.


The Committee recommends the use of an automated form on a micro-computer diskette for reporting, with a paper form available, for exceptional cases only.

The automated reporting form should be designed so that the facility identification information need be entered only once, no matter how many substances a facility reports.

Both Environment Canada and industry will realize considerable savings by using a computer-based system for reporting and processing NPRI information.


The Committee recommends that facilities reporting to NPRI provide the following identification information:
(Please see Appendix 7 for a table of these data elements)

  • Company name
  • Facility name, location, latitude and longitude
  • Parent company information
  • Number of employees
  • SIC code(s), either U.S. or Canadian
  • A Residual Discharge Information System (RDIS) or Domestic Substances List (DSL) number(s)
  • Name of a facility contact
  • Provision for existing provincial operating permit identification numbers
  • Signature of a facility executive on a covering letter


The Committee recommends that, for each NPRI substance manufactured, processed or otherwise used in a concentration of 1 % or greater, and in a quantity equal or greater than 10 tonnes per year, facilities should provide the following information:
(Please see Appendix 7 for a table of these data elements)

4.8.1. Substance identification

The substance name and Chemical Abstracts Service Registry number, as well as the activities involving the substance at the facility (for example: imported; produced as a by-product; used as a reactant, and so on).

4.8.2. On-site releases of the substances

The quantity of the substance released from the site to air, water and land, as well as the method for estimating the release. Release of the substance into public sewers that discharge without treatment should be reported, as should the name(s) of receiving streams and bodies of water.

4.8.3. The seasonal breakdown of releases

When the normal distribution of releases of 25% per quarter varies more than 10 percentage points (that is, if in a quarter, releases amount to less than 15% or more 35% of the total released) facilities should report the percentage of releases in each seasonal quarter. This will be relevant for facilities that produce in batches instead of continuously, and the information will help to assess the environmental impact of the substances under different conditions (as in the summer, for example, when evaporation rates are higher and rivers flow at a lower level).

4.8.4. Off-site transfers of the substance in waste

The total quantity of the substance shipped in waste off-site; the percentage that went to recovery, reuse and recycle, destruction, public sewers with treatment and containment facilities; and the name and address of the facility to which the substance was transferred.

4.8.5. Reasons for a change in quantities released or transferred

If the quantity of an NPRI substance released or transferred has changed significantly since the last report, facilities should be asked to indicate whether this is because of:

  1. changes in production levels;
  2. changes in estimation methods;
  3. pollution prevention and abatement;4
  4. other reasons (including spills, accidents or breakdowns); or
  5. no significant change.

If two or more factors caused the change, the facility would be asked to indicate the significant ones. A change of less than 10% should not be considered significant.

Facilities should be allowed up to 10 lines of text in each NPRI substance report (Part B of the form), to more fully describe reasons for any change in the amounts released or transferred. The purpose is to learn why the quantities of a substance released or transferred have changed. This information would only have to be provided starting in a facility's second reporting year.

4.8.6. Anticipated releases and transfers

The facility should list the reductions in releases and transfers it expects to occur in each of the next three years. Users of this information should be told that these figures are projections, not goals or objectives. Release quantities can change for many reasons, including changes in business conditions and product lines. Facilities are required to report anticipated releases and transfers to encourage them to make reductions, not to obligate them.


In cases where NPRI substances (a) meet the reporting, conditions, and (b) are released or transferred in quantities of one tonne or less, facilities would have to indicate only whether the total releases or transfers are in the following ranges: 1 to 9.9 kg; 10 to 99.9 kg; or 100 to 999.9 kg.

For this provision, the quantities released and quantities transferred should be assessed separately. If, for example, a facility released more than a tonne and transferred less than a tonne, only the transfers could be reported in the simplified manner. Releases would have to be reported in the usual manner.

The Committee is recommending this provision to reduce the administrative burden of NPRI, without significantly affecting the overall quantity of release information reported. But since a report would still be required, the NPRI data base would indicate that the facility uses and releases the NPRI substance(s).


Facilities should be able to choose the best available method to prepare their estimates of releases. The estimating techniques are: monitoring data; mass balance calculations; emission factor estimates; and engineering estimates. The chosen method(s) should be reported on the NPRI form.


In keeping with the principle that the NPRI should not unreasonably burden facilities, the Committee recommends that they be allowed to submit a best estimate of releases, based on a reasonable effort. Section 16 of CEPA, the legal basis for the NPRI, requires facilities to provide information to which they "may reasonably be expected to have access."


Within its available budget, Environment Canada will provide guidance and assistance to reporting facilities, including training workshops, methodology manuals and telephone assistance.


Facilities should be required to keep working papers, estimation calculations and data supporting their reports for at least three years. Duly appointed inspectors should be able to review background papers, examine facilities and their records in accordance with the CEPA Enforcement and Compliance policy.


Making release data available to the public is a major objective of the NPRI. To this end, the Committee has prepared proposals on how NPRI data should be made available (please see appendices). However, in light of the limitations on NPRI resources and the importance of launching inventory operations, the Committee has chosen to make two general recommendations, leaving the remaining proposals for further discussion during 1993 (please see section 6.4 and appendices).

The Committee recommends that all non-confidential data in the NPRI should be accessible to the public. This includes data on the substances released and transferred by individual facilities.

The Committee also endorses the Green Plan commitment to publish the NPRI annual report for 1993 before the end of 1994.


The Committee recommends that in the 1993 reporting year, the NPRI describe all the sources and quantities of selected released substances. This would require that any available information on releases from non-reporting sources (such as urban runoff or households), be added to the information from reporting sources. Even if the quantity of release is not known, the source should be named.

In making this recommendation, the Committee is expanding on a Green Plan commitment for Environment Canada to include releases of NPRI substances from the combustion of transportation fuels. The information will be included in the NPRI data base.

2 Terms in this phrase specific to this report may be found in the definitions listed in the appendices at the back of the report.
3 The U.S. TRI requires facilities in the manufacturing sector (SIC codes 20 to 39) that have 10 or more full-time employees to report if they (a) manufacture or process 25,000 pounds or more of TRI substances; or (b) otherwise use 10,000 pounds or more of a TRI substance.
4 Committee members differ as to whether or not item 3 should be split into two distinct activities, pollution prevention (the reduction or elimination of wastes at source) and pollution abatement (the reduction of releases). Labour, environmental groups and the government of Ontario favour this option; they want to encourage pollution prevention. Industry and the other government representatives prefer to keep the item as it is because the concept of pollution prevention is insufficiently defined at present.

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