Toxic chemical releases by the nation's industrial plants, utilities, and mines dropped 6% in 2008, EPA said last week. The agency's annual Toxics Release Inventory indicates that companies put 3.9 billion lb of toxic chemicals into the air and water and onto land last year, down from 4.1 billion lb in 2007 and 4.3 billion lb in 2006. The report, which includes data on 650 chemicals from nearly 22,000 facilities, indicates that air emissions declined 14% from 2007, but surface water discharges rose 3%. The increase, EPA noted, is partially attributed to a large coal ash spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Kingston, Tenn. Releases to land were virtually unchanged, showing a 0.1% increase in 2008. EPA said one reason for the overall reduction in chemical pollution is that 5% fewer facilities reported data, which "may be attributed to the economic downturn." As companies shut down or reduce manufacturing, the amount of pollution also drops. The report also shows a 2% decrease in the release of persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic chemicals, including lead, dioxins, and mercury. Metal mining, the largest source of releases, showed a decrease of less than 1%, or 3 million lb, between 2007 and 2008.