For Immediate Release Contact:
August 10, 2004 Kate Madigan, 517-664-2600
Thousands of Michiganders Call for Elimination of Mercury Pollution
Technology Exists Today to Reduce Mercury Emissions Into Michigan Waterways
Lansing, MI – Conservation, public health and environmental groups gathered at the steps of the state capitol with tribal leaders to deliver more than 8,000 postcards and letters to Governor Granholm from citizens throughout Michigan, and called on her to act immediately to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants—the largest unregulated source of mercury.
“The thousands of comments delivered today to Governor Granholm demonstrate the overwhelming public support for action to prevent toxic mercury from polluting Michigan’s lakes and rivers,” said Kate Madigan, Environmental Advocate with PIRGIM. “Michigan’s power plants can reduce mercury by 90 percent by the end of the decade, and our state leaders should require them to do so.”
Technology is available to reduce as much as 90 percent of mercury from power plants, and is cost-effective, according to many sources including EPA. Other sources of mercury, such as incinerators, are already achieving 90 percent reductions with these technologies. Studies show that significant emissions reductions lead to rapid reductions in mercury found in local fish and wildlife.
“Michigan anglers have been dealing with mercury fish consumption advisories for three decades,” said Zoe Lipman of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Office. “We shouldn’t have to wait any longer. We have the technology to solve this problem—it’s proven, it’s affordable, and we can start using it today.”
The call to action comes as the U.S. EPA is preparing a final federal mercury rule that would allow power plants to emit six to seven times more mercury for a decade longer than the Clean Air Act requires. Faced with this insufficient federal proposal and the likelihood of further delays, states are starting to take the lead on reducing mercury, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Illinois, by requiring that state power plants use current mercury control technology.
Governor Granholm pledged two years ago to phase out and eliminate mercury in Michigan. She has commissioned a work group, made up of industry and public interest representatives, to come up with a plan for achieving this. The report is being finalized and action by the governor is expected to follow.
“The message today is clear,” said Paul Shaheen, Executive Director of the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health. “The public wants to end the threat that mercury poses to children’s health. There is no reason for us to continue to put our children’s health at risk.”
Eating mercury-contaminated fish is the primary way people are exposed to mercury. Mercury
exposure has been linked to learning disabilities, developmental delays and other serious
health problems in children. Earlier this year, EPA’s own scientists estimated that more
than 600,000 of the four million babies born each year may be at risk of neurological damage due to mercury exposure in the womb.
Michigan has a statewide fish consumption advisory in effect, urging the public to limit consumption of many popular sport fish due to high levels of mercury. A report released last week by PIRGIM found that every fish sampled in Michigan contained mercury, and the majority had mercury concentrations above the EPA’s “safe” limit for women and children.
“The Granholm administration now has a historical opportunity to protect our children and our Great Lakes from toxic mercury pollution,” Madigan concluded. “We believe they will come through on their promise and reduce mercury significantly this decade.”
PIRGIM is a non-profit, public interest advocacy organization that works throughout Michigan to preserve the environment, protect consumers and promote good government. www.PIRGIM.org.
303 Abbott Street, Suite 205
East Lansing, MI 48823