2010 NPRI Reviewed Facility Data Release


2. Overview of Pollutant Releases, Disposals and Recycling Reported to the NPRI for 2010

For 2010, 346 substances or substance groups were listed on the NPRI, and 8096 facilities reported on substances. Approximately 400 fewer facilities reported to the NPRI for 2010 compared to 2009. The decrease was primarily due to facility closures in the manufacturing sector, and facilities falling below NPRI reporting thresholds for substances and employees

For more information, see the summary of data reported to the NPRI for 2010, including the location of facilities across Canada, major pollutants reported and key contributing sectors.  Detailed facility pollutant reports are also available through the NPRI online data search, map layers for use with Google Earth, and downloadable datasets.

For more information on specific assumptions and considerations in the analysis for the 2010 NPRI data release, please refer to the Technical Notes.

Figure 2.1: Total Releases, Disposals and Recycling (Off-site) Reported to the NPRI for 2010[1]

Figure 2.1. Details can be found below.
Total releases disposals and recycling (off-site) reported to the NPRI for 2010. Releases to air of Criteria air Contaminants accounted for 60.9%, Releases to air, water, land (excluding Criteria Air Contaminants) accounted for 4.1%, other disposals accounted for 16.5%, transfers for recycling accounted for 5.1%, tailings accounted for 13.1% and waste rock accounted for 0.3%

a) Releases to air of criteria air contaminants [2](60.9%):

Over half of the pollutants reported to the NPRI for 2010 were air emissions of criteria air contaminants (CACs), the main pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain and poor air quality. Some examples of releases to air include discharges through a stack, vent or other point of release; losses from storage and handling of materials; fugitive emissions (releases that cannot be captured and releases that are unintentional); and spills and accidental releases.

The sectors with the largest reported releases of CACs were oil and gas extraction; electricity generation, transmission and distribution; and primary metal smelting.

A breakdown of reported releases for CACs is provided in Table 2.1 below.

Table 2.1: Releases of Criteria Air Contaminants Reported for 2010[1]
Criteria Air ContaminantTonnes Released
Sulphur dioxide1 196 818
Carbon monoxide917 235
Nitrogen oxides (expressed as NO2)672 753
Total particulate matter344 436
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)250 432
Particulate matter ≤ 10 microns (PM10)143 812
Particulate matter ≤ 2.5 microns (PM2.5)53 844

Facilities that report to the NPRI are a key source of CAC emissions in Canada. However, there are other major sources, such as motor vehicles, residential heating, forest fires and agriculture. For more information, see 2010 Air Pollutant Emissions Summaries and Historical Emission Trends.

b) Releases to air, water, and land (excluding criteria air contaminants[2]) (4.1%):

Excluding the CACs listed in Table 2.1, direct (on-site) releases to air, water, and land accounted for 4.1% of total amounts reported to the NPRI for 2010. A further breakdown is provided below.

b.1. Releases to air (1.7%)


Other than CACs, the substances that were reported as released to air in the largest amounts for 2010 were ammonia, total reduced sulphur and methanol. The sectors with the largest reported releases of these other air pollutants were pulp, paper and paperboard mills; oil and gas extraction; and chemical manufacturing.

b.2. Releases to surface waters (2.1%):

Releases to surface waters include direct discharges, spills and leaks. For the purposes of reporting to the NPRI, releases from wastewater treatment plants are included under this category, but discharges to wastewater treatment plants are reported under the category of off-site transfers for treatment prior to final disposal.

The sectors that reported the largest releases to surface water were water, sewage and other systems (primarily municipal sewage treatment plants); pulp, paper and paperboard mills; and oil and gas extraction facilities.

The substances reported as released to water in the largest amounts were nitrate ion[3]in solution, ammonia, phosphorus, methanol and manganese.

b.3. Releases to land (0.2%):

Releases to land include spills and leaks. 

The substances reported as released to land in the largest quantities were ethylene glycol, copper (and its compounds) and manganese (and its compounds). 

Ethylene glycol was used primarily as a de-icing agent by facilities in the Support Activities for Air Transportation sector and the Defence Services sector. The Defence Services sector also reported sizable releases to land of copper, lead and zinc, mainly from the firing of weapons at training facilities.

c) Recycling – off-site transfers (5.1%):

Recycling refers to activities that keep a material or a component of the material from becoming a waste destined for final disposal. Facilities that meet NPRI thresholds are required to report information on the amounts of the pollutants that they transfer off-site for recycling. On-site recycling activities are not required to be reported.

For 2010, the substances that were transferred for recycling in the largest quantities were zinc (and its compounds), sulphuric acid, copper (and its compounds), manganese (and its compounds) and lead.

The top sectors that transferred substances for recycling were primary metal manufacturing (e.g., smelting and refining); petroleum and coal products manufacturing; and transportation equipment manufacturing.

d) Disposals (e.g., landfill and underground injection) – excluding tailings and waste rock (16.5%):

Several types of disposals are reported to the NPRI, such as landfill, land application, underground injection, tailings and waste rock.

The substances (excluding those reported for tailings and waste rock) disposed of in the largest quantities were hydrogen sulphide, xylene (all isomers) and asbestos (friable form).

The top sectors for on-site or off-site disposals were support activities for mining and oil and gas extraction; oil and gas extraction; and waste treatment and disposal.

e) Disposals of tailings (13.1%) and waste rock (0.3%):

“Tailings” are the waste material that remains after the processing of ore, ore concentrate or other mined materials (i.e., oil sands) to extract marketable components such as metals, minerals or bitumen. Depending on the type of process used and the material being recovered, tailings could include finely ground rock material, sand, clay, water, chemicals used in the process, or residual metals, minerals or bitumen.

“Waste rock” is rock that is removed during the mining extraction operations to provide access to the ore, and is not further processed at that time. Waste rock generally consists of fragmented pieces of rock of various sizes. 

The NPRI-listed substances contained in tailings and waste rock generally occur naturally in the rock or bitumen deposits removed during mine operations, typically in low concentrations. However, overall quantities can be large due to the volume of materials removed or processed. Furthermore, while tailings and waste rock in Canada are managed to reduce the risk of environmental contamination, concerns remain due to acidic drainage, potential leakage from tailings ponds and the possibility of wildlife contact with the tailings.

The substances disposed of in the largest quantities were manganese (and its compounds), phosphorus (total) and copper (and its compounds).

More information on tailings and waste rock is available within the 2009 NPRI, Data Summary, here.


[1] The CACs in this pie chart refer to the substances listed in Part 4 of the NPRI substance list. Ammonia can also be considered a CAC, but it is reported under Part 1 of the list. For more information see the Technical Notes.

[2] Including emissions of road dust reported to the NPRI. For more information, see the Technical Notes.

[3] pH ≥ 6.0