17% of people live near toxic release facilities—here's how it breaks down in the Four States

17% of people live near toxic release facilities—here’s how it breaks down by state.

The Supreme Court on June 30 reduced the capability of the EPA to regulate carbon emissions of state power plants in its ruling on West Virginia vs. EPA. Beyond the ruling’s impact on U.S. climate goals, it will also have ramifications for the people who live near power plants. Electricity generation is the second largest contributor to carbon emissions in the U.S., and exposure to pollutants from power plants heightens the risk of respiratory and cardiac health conditions.

Corporate sites across the U.S. are releasing toxins into the surrounding land, air, and water—with many people living in affected communities unaware of the damage being caused. After an accidental release from a chemical plant in West Virginia chemical plant in 1985, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. The act established the EPA Toxic Release Inventory, which provides citizens with crucial information on what toxins are being emitted in their areas and which companies are doing the emitting. The TRI has allowed certain states to put emission-curbing legislation in place to safeguard public health, such as when Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker passed legislation in 2019 allocating $2.4 billion to climate change resilience.

The EPA’s TRI program currently recognizes 770 chemicals; any site that manufactures or uses these chemicals at above-average levels qualifies for listing in the TRI. Chemicals described by the TRI as “toxic” are known to cause cancer or other negative health issues, as well as adverse effects on the environment. Facilities report the amounts of chemicals they release annually to the TRI, with the “release” of a chemical meaning it is “emitted to the air or water, or placed in some type of land disposal.”

The facilities in the TRI are usually quite large and deal in electricity, metals, mining, chemicals, or hazardous waste. However, not all toxic chemicals used by corporations are listed in the TRI, meaning its inventory of toxin-emitting sites is not exhaustive.

Stacker analyzed data from the EPA Toxic Release Inventory and the U.S. Census Bureau’s five-year American Community Survey to identify the percent of each state’s population living in census tracts with toxic release sites, as well as the corporations and facilities responsible for emitting the highest amounts of toxins annually. These results reflect the last full year of data, 2020, from the 2020 National Analysis Dataset released in October 2021.

Read on to discover where the most toxins are being released in the Four States, what part of your environment they may be polluting, and who is being affected.

4. Oklahoma

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 20.3%
    — 18.3% of state’s white population
    — 21.0% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 18.4% of state’s Black population
    — 22.4% of state’s Native American population
    — 15.0% of state’s Asian population
    — 15.8% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 362

Oklahoma’s biggest toxin-emitting site is a paper manufacturer: the International Paper facility released 5.9 million pounds of pollutants, mainly into the air, in 2020. Of the chemicals emitted into the atmosphere in Oklahoma in 2020, 50% was ammonia, 29% methanol, and 5% toluene.

3. Missouri

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 21.7%
    — 21.9% of state’s white population
    — 24.1% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 15.3% of state’s Black population
    — 28.2% of state’s Native American population
    — 14.4% of state’s Asian population
    — 24.3% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 507

Combination mine-and-mills comprised four of five of Missouri’s top toxin-emitting sites in 2020. The biggest offenders were facilities in Buick (over 11 million pounds), Brushy Creek (over 6.7 million pounds), Sweetwater (about 3.8 million pounds), and Fletcher (about 3.2 million pounds). The vast majority of toxins were released into the land.

2. Kansas

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 25.0%
    — 23.4% of state’s white population
    — 24.6% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 15.8% of state’s Black population
    — 28.5% of state’s Native American population
    — 15.4% of state’s Asian population
    — 31.4% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 322

Of the 15.9 million pounds of toxins released on-site in 2020 in Kansas, 10 million pounds went into the air, 1.3 million pounds into the water, and 4.5 million pounds into the land. PQ Corporation was responsible for 5 million pounds, the most in the state. Second was Koch Fertilizer Dodge City, which released over 3 million pounds.

1. Arkansas

  • Population living near toxic release sites: 27.1%
    — 24.0% of state’s white population
    — 41.7% of state’s Hispanic population
    — 27.4% of state’s Black population
    — 30.3% of state’s Native American population
    — 25.1% of state’s Asian population
    — 69.3% of state’s Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander population
  • Total number of sites: 341

Arkansas’ 2020 toxin amounts were primarily due to three paper distributors. Evergreen Packaging released over 2.7 million pounds that year; Clean Harbors El Dorado LLC, over 2.2 million pounds; and Domtar’s Ashdown mill, with 2.1 million pounds.

OK Gov. Kevin Stitt begins second term

OKLAHOMA CITY — Governor Kevin Stitt delivered his second Inaugural Address on Monday.

Stitt said one of his goals is to bring professional educators to the top in the region in pay and benefits.

Stitt is just one of five governors in Oklahoma to be reelected to a second term. The others are George Nigh, Frank Keating, Brad Henry, and Mary Fallin. 

Since statehood, Oklahoma has had 28 governors. Six governors were Republican and 22 governors were Democrat.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters was also sworn in at the State Capitol on Monday beginning his four-year term.

“It is an honor to be elected and serve as the next State Superintendent,” Walters said in a prepared statement. “I look forward to giving Oklahoma students the best opportunity to learn from the great teachers here in Oklahoma.”

Ryan Walters

Walters said his plans are to audit every educational dollar, fight to increase teacher pay, and evaluate best practices.

“I look forward to working with Governor Stitt, the Legislature, and the State Board of Education to empower parents, increase teacher pay, protect girls’ sports and keep the fundamentals of Oklahoma’s educational system at the forefront during my tenure,” Walters said.

Grove voters head to the polls on Tuesday

GROVE, Okla. – An obscure election ballot measure will be voted on by Grove voters in Tuesday’s election.

Voters are being asked to decide whether to provide the power company Public Service Company of Oklahoma with a new 25-year franchise to serve the city. The measure allows the power company to use the city’s land easements when working on power lines, said Debbie Bottoroff, city manager.

“If the vote doesn’t pass PSO will have to get the property owner’s permission to use the property easement,” Bottoroff said.  “This would slow down service response times and rates would increase.”

The issue is only on the ballot every 25 years. 

Jennifer McAffrey sworn in as District Judge for Ottawa and Delaware counties

MAMI, Okla.  – Judges for the 13th District were sworn in on Monday at the Ottawa County Courthouse.

Before a standing room only filled with former prosecutors, judges, attorneys, and law enforcement officials, the Honorable Jennifer McAffrey was sworn in as District Judge for Delaware and Ottawa counties.  

Judge McAffrey, the former Associate Judge for Ottawa County, assumes the district’s top judicial post after former District Judge Barry Denney resigned.

“The people of Oklahoma should know they have the finest core of judicial representation,” said retired Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice John Reif, who administered the oath of office to McAffrey.

Reif also swore in Matt Whalen as Associate Judge for Ottawa County.

Special Judges Nick Lelecas and Becky Baird and judges from Mayes, Rogers, Osage, and Nowata counties were sworn in by Reif for their second term as judges.

Judge David Crutchfield remains the Associate Judge in Delaware County.

Grove voters to determine utility company's future in area

GROVE, Okla. — Keeping the lights on is the focus of a ballot question in northeast Oklahoma next week.

Voters in Grove will decide whether to extend the electric franchise for the Public Service Company of Oklahoma. PSC is currently in charge of the utility in Grove — and would get another 25 years of operations if voters support the question.

The company serves a wide swathe of the state, mostly in eastern and southwest Oklahoma.
Voters will decide on Tuesday, January 10th.

Girl Scout Cookies go on sale today

JOPLIN, Mo. — Hungry for Girl Scout cookies?

This year’s Girl Scout Cookie Season kicks off today, January 6th.

The new cookie this year is the Raspberry Rally cookie.  The thin, crispy cookie is a “sister” cookie to the favorite Thin Mints.  The cookie is infused with raspberry flavor instead of mint and dipped in the same delicious chocolaty coating.

This new cookie will be the first in the Girl Scout Cookie lineup to be exclusively offered for online sales and direct shipment only. 

Selling cookies embraces the understanding of the world of business, money management, and entrepreneurship, said Lauren Slamb, Girl Scouts of the Missouri Heartland spokeswoman.

Every package is filled with leadership and life lessons, she said.

Girl Scout Cookies were originally home-baked by girl members with moms volunteering as technical advisers, according to the national Girl Scouts website. The sale of cookies to finance troop activities began as early as 1917. The Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project.

According to the national Girl Scouts website the best-selling Girl Scout Cookies are: 

  1. Thin Mints® 
  2. Caramel deLites®/Samoas®
  3. Peanut Butter Patties®/Tagalongs®
  4. Adventurefuls™
  5. Do-si-dos®/Peanut Butter Sandwich

How to Purchase Girl Scout Cookies This Year 

If you know a registered Girl Scout, reach out to her to find out how she’s selling cookies in ways that meet local and state safety protocols. 

You can also text COOKIES to 59618 to be among the first to receive information about Girl Scout Cookies.

Beginning February 17, enter your zip code into the Girl Scout Cookie Finder at www.girlscoutcookies.org to find a booth near you, to purchase cookies from a local Girl Scout troop for delivery, or to donate cookies to local causes. 

Southwest Missouri man accused of using children in shoplifting scam

JAY, Okla. – Oklahoma authorities issue an arrest warrant for a Noel, Missouri man for allegedly making his children shoplift beer and steaks from a Grove Walmart.

Gary Cook, 52, is charged in Delaware County District Court with two counts of child neglect and petty larceny.

Cook is accused of trying to steal food and clothes totaling $707.39 on Sept. 10 in two separate incidents, according to a Grove police report.

In the first incident, police say Cook was in the parking lot with a shopping cart full of items when confronted by the store’s loss prevention officer. Cook allegedly left his shopping cart and ran toward a 1990s F150 with a white camper.

Police say some of the items recovered include two bags of charcoal, several packages of ribeye steaks, two men’s hoodies and four loaves of bread.

In the second incident, police say Cook made his children, ages 15 and 7, steal items totaling approximately $442.25 of merchandise.

Some of the items included beer, ribeye steaks and other food items, men’s underclothes, men’s jogger outfits and Halloween candy.

When the juveniles were stopped by police, the children reportedly told police, “The plan was to get the items and meet their father at the truck.” But police said when the boys went to the parking lot, they could not find their father’s truck.   

Officers say the 7-year-old was “emotionally distraught” and “the 15-year-old was calm and comforting the 7-year-old.”

A surveillance video reportedly shows Cook and the two juveniles walking into the store together, but grabbing separate carts and going separate ways once inside the store.  The report says the surveillance video also shows the group meeting up periodically inside the store as they fill the carts full of items. 

Officers say Cook is seen exiting the store alone and the juveniles exiting the store with a cart full of items, passing all the cashiers and self-checkout lanes.

The police report indicates the boys weren’t aware what they were doing was wrong. Officers say Cook simply left the boys at the store.

Afton woman sentenced to 15 years for beating her toddler

JAY, Okla. – An Afton woman pleaded guilty to child neglect involving the beating of her daughter that left the girl’s eye swollen shut.

Tabetha Townsend, 26, and Chandler Blackwell, 26, were charged in Jan. 2020 in Delaware County District Court with child neglect for the beating of Townsend’s 21-month-old daughter.


A judge sentenced Townsend to 15 years in prison with the provision that part of her sentence could be suspended if she completes a substance abuse treatment program.  

According to the arrest affidavit, the toddler’s head and face were swollen causing “her left ear to be downward placed and her left eye to be swollen shut.”  

Officers also noted the child had bruising on her eye and right forehead, along with several small, faint, blue bruises on her foot, thighs and upper back.

The child was admitted to St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa.

The judge also gave Blackwell a 15-year sentence, with similar provisions – that the balance of his sentence be suspended after he completes a residential treatment plan, obtain his GED, and completes parenting classes. 

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections website shows Blackwell remains incarcerated.  

Grove city leaders finalize sale, bringing shopping center to lake community

GROVE, Okla. — Grand Lake residents are getting a shopping mall.

For the past year, Grove city leaders have been negotiating with the Oklahoma City-based Foraker Company selling the 49,000-square-foot Grove Civic Center for $2.5 million.  The Grove Civic Center sits on 5.2 acres.

The shopping center’s three anchor stores will be Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, and Burke’s Outlet.

“There are plans for a Starbucks to have a separate building in the parking lot,” said Debbie Bottoroff, city manager.

Walmart, the previous business at the site, required a 50-year agreement to not have a competitor located on the property and had to approve any retail development.

“This is such exciting news for Grove and Grand Lake,” Bottoroff said. “This will generate new sales tax, which is what the city survives on.”

A new event center to replace the Grove Civic Center will be built at Wolf Creek Park. 

Preliminary cost estimates several months ago were in the $7 million range, she said.

“We are researching grants and other financial options for construction,” Bottoroff said. “Once the financing and plans are finalized, we will begin construction.”

 The City Council wants to keep the time between selling the civic center and building a new event center to a minimum, she said.

The Foraker Company has completed several similar projects in Oklahoma and Texas.

One person dead in New Year's Day shooting

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — One man is dead and several others were shot just hours after ringing in the new year.

The Oklahoma City Police Department said the shooting happened in a parking lot just south of Interstate 40, near downtown OKC. Multiple police units responded to the call.

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OKC Police said that a man died at the scene and medics rushed at least three other victims to the hospital.

KOCO 5 reported three other people were shot. Their conditions are unknown at this time.

As of New Year’s Day, Police had not located the suspect in the shooting. An investigation is still ongoing.