Local Environment Reports

Last year, ICI promised Friends of the Earth (FoE) that when it began its annual cycle of environmental reports, the information disclosed "in some cases would exceed US requirements."

The most detailed information published routinely by ICI will be made available by means of environmental reports for each of its sites. The first two of these, for Teesside and Merseyside, were issued in March - and FoE is in for a disappointment.

Neither report contains the full substance-by-substance breakdown of each site's hazardous releases to the environment which has to be reported by law in the USA, and which FoE's data addicts were hoping to see replicated by ICI. The reports differ markedly in length and format.

1991 1995/6 % reduction

(000 tonnes)

Air1 132 53 60%

Water 347.6 89.6 74%

Land2 43 22 49%

1 Excluding releases from energy production

2 Special and difficult wastes only

The more comprehensive of the two is Teesside's. This gives a more detailed breakdown of the site's main releases to air, water and land, and also reduction targets in each category (see table).

The Merseyside report, in contrast, provides aggregate data on releases to each medium, but much less on releases of individual substances. It adds that the site has "plans in hand to install chemical processing and waste management equipment - costing tens of millions of pounds - which will ensure a significant reduction in the amount of waste we discharge on Merseyside" - but reduction targets and deadlines are conspicuous by their absence.

Both reports mention the prosecutions suffered by each site for pollution offences. But only Merseyside's includes data on environmental incidents and public complaints - possibly because the trend in both cases was downward in 1991.

Despite these and other inconsistencies, the reports mark a significant step on the road towards a climate of openness about ICI's environmental performance. FoE and Greenpeace, however, may well press the company to open up its books still further. ICI appears to be hesitant about doing so. "We would be very happy for any genuinely interested party to come and talk to us about the details of our emission data," said a spokesman for its Teesside site. "We would not provide hard copies or computer disks of our database, but we would respond positively to requests for more detailed information." Precisely what anyone could take away from such a visit is not clear.

Likewise, a spokesman for ICI's Merseyside operation commented that it would be prepared to "explain" its data to interested parties, although he added when pressed that he "supposed" they would be allowed to take the figures away in some form.

The exact response to public requests for further information will be left to individual sites to determine. What ICI should perhaps be asking itself whether local management autonomy is likely to yield sufficiently consistent results in this area any more than it did over the years in environmental protection generally.

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