The contamination of air, water and land by industrial pollutants in the EU will face closer scrutiny from this week, following the launch of a new register from the European Commission and the European Environment Agency.
The register will collate annual data for 91 substances and covers more than 24,000 facilities operating across 65 different industrial sectors. Under the rules of the register, any pollutants transferred offsite have to be reported on and tracked.
"The opening of this register will give citizens direct access to information on emissions from facilities across Europe and will help them to engage actively in decisions affecting the environment," said environment commissioner Stavros Dimas. "It demonstrates a genuine commitment by the public authorities and industry to share information with citizens and increase openness."
Pollutants covered by the register will include carbon dioxide, organic solvents, fluorides, lead, methane, nitrous oxide and ammonia.
The chemicals industry, manufacturers, cement firms, heavy carbon emitters and the shipwrecking industry will all be included on the register.
It will also show the amount of waste and waste water transferred to other locations, including transboundary transfers of hazardous waste, and gives preliminary information on pollutants from "diffuse" sources released to water, such as nitrogen and phosphorus loss from agriculture.
The European Commission said the web site would also have a powerful search engine that allows visitors to search using one or more criteria and a map tool.
As a result, users can search the amount of hazardous and non-hazardous waste transferred from facilities in a particular country, or released from a specific industrial site by name or location.
The register will ensure the EU is compliant with the UN's the Aarhus Convention, which was formally adopted in May 2003 by 20 EU countries including all the major economies, and came into effect last month.
Professor Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the European Environment Agency, said the new register would increase public pressure on polluters to dispose of hazardous substances in a responsible manner. "To achieve the public participation objective set by the Aarhus Convention, people first need to know what is happening to their environment and what is at stake," she said. "With this new register, we take an important step in placing more environmental information at their fingertips."
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