New England States Take Aim at Power Plant Mercury Emission
For the first time, a group of states is imposing a limit on mercury in regional waters.
In collaboration with the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, the six New England states and New York have joined together to set Clean Water Act standards that force a 90 percent reduction in out-of-state mercury pollution from sources including the Midwest’s coal-fired power plants.
The states released their mercury pollution reduction plan under the Clean Water Act through a draft total maximum daily load (TMDL).
The TMDL is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet its water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant’s sources.
This TMDL calls for 90 to 95 percent reductions in mercury emissions in Midwest power plants through existing reduction control technology.
The TMDL concludes that implementation of such controls is achievable and cost-effective and should commence immediately.
The states pointed to elevated levels of mercury in fish throughout the region. According to the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission, 10,175 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, 46,207 river miles, and an additional 25 river segments are listed as impaired, primarily due to atmospheric deposition of mercury.
Each of the New England states and New York has implemented an aggressive mercury reduction program to deal with the severe, widespread mercury pollution in the region.
After public hearings are held in the region, the states will submit the mercury TMDL to the Environmental Protect Agency (EPA) for approval. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has 30 days to approve or disapprove the TMDL.
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), which has been pressing for the tough, new mercury reductions standards, applauded the move.
“The Bush administration has failed to hold Midwest power plants accountable for the damage they have done to our air, water and soil,” said Christopher Kilian, director of CLF’s Clean Water and Healthy Forests Program. “Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that is directly impacting the health of New England’s people and environment.”
Many of the involved states, along with CLF, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s Clean Air Mercury Rule on the grounds that it allows continued excessive emissions of mercury from power plants in the Midwest.
“Now the New England states and New York are using their legal authority under the Clean Water Act to protect our health and safety from this dangerous, toxic pollution,” said Melissa Hoffer, vice president and director of CLF’s New Hampshire Advocacy Center.