Front Porch Blog

More Mercury

The Charlotte Observer has more on citizens who are speaking out against mercury pollution.

A parade of young mothers, doctors and environmentalists on Thursday urged the state’s top environmental board to sharply rein in power plant emissions of mercury, a toxic metal that can impair babies.
Utilities say they’re lowering emissions but can’t promise the 90 percent reductions environmental groups demand.

Mercury has been regulated since October 2005, with the passage of the underwhelming Clean Air Mercury Rule. Mercury is heavier than other “criteria pollutants” regulated by the EPA, and therefore falls to the ground much faster. This means that mercury falls over a smaller area, in which the contamination is much more concentrated and intense.

The issue then, comes when industry is allowed to “trade” for mercury credits. This means that, since industry is allowed to choose where they pollute in order to meet standards, mercury is concentrated in even fewer areas with even higher levels of contamination. Some plants will not even have controls at all, as they concentrate on their newer plants, and let the older and more decrepit ones continue to increase pollution.

Mercury most often affects people who eat contaminated fish. Pregnant women, in particular, risk causing learning and developmental problems in their babies. At least 10 percent of women of child-bearing age have potentially unsafe mercury levels, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated.

I found this to be the most interesting…

The Environmental Management Commission has proposed limits that, like a federal standard to take effect this fall, would reduce mercury releases 70 percent by 2018…North Carolina expects mercury releases to drop about 60 percent by 2013 as a state law reducing power plant emissions takes effect.
Tests at two Duke plants found that injecting carbon into smokestack gases could remove up to 90 percent of the mercury. But results varied widely, Duke said, and couldn’t be consistently repeated.
New Duke plants, such as the two units planned for Rutherford County, will use state-of-the-art controls that will capture more than 80 percent of their mercury.

Charlotte is apparently one of 4 US cities where mercury falls close to the smokestacks that release it.




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