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GLIN==> NWF Launches Clean The Rain Campaign

Posted on behalf of Becky Lentz <LENTZ@nwf.org>

>For Immediate Release:   September 14,1999
>Contacts: Julie Metty,  NWF: 734-769-3351
>Nolan Bennett, CWA, 517/337-4447
>James Clift, MEC, 517/487-9539
>Dana Debel, MUCC, 517/346-6452
>Alarming New Data Reveals Dangerous Mercury Levels in Rain Falling on
Detroit and Other Midwestern Cities
>Detroit, Michigan: A new National Wildlife Federation report (available
athttp://www.nwf.org/water/news/CTRexec.html ) reveals that the rain falling
from the skies over cities such as Chicago, Detroit, Duluth and Gary
contains levels of mercury that far exceed what the Environmental Protection
Agency considers "safe" in the Great Lakes and other waterways.
>The serious human health implications of eating fish contaminated with
mercury from rain prompted the Federation and 21 state and local
partnerorganizations to launch the Clean the Rain Campaign today.  Designed
to alert Americans to the danger mercury poses, the Clean the Rain Campaign
will work on the local, state and national levels to reduce these risk.
>"We usually think of rain as pure and clean, and that's the way it should
be," said Mark Van Putten, President & CEO of the National Wildlife
Federation.  "But this report reveals that rain falling over
Midwesterncities such as Detroit, Chicago and Duluth contains as much as 65
times theEPA safe-level of mercury, which holds out extremely serious health
implications for both humans and wildlife."
>The report includes mercury contamination levels in rain and how they
compare to EPA safe levels for human health in a number of Midwestern urban
>Chicago, Illinois as high as 42 times safe levels
>Detroit, Michigan as high as 65 times safe levels
>Duluth, Minnesota a six-year average of six times safe levels
>Illinois/Wisconsin border as high as 56 times safe levels
>Mercury is a potent toxin, and when ingested in even tiny amounts can cause
devastating effects on the human nervous system, especially for children and
the unborn.  Associated illnesses include brain, lung and kidney damage and
even death in humans.  In wildlife, mercury is a reproductive hazard that
can cause harmful effects on species such as frogs, rainbow trout, zebra
fish, mallard and American black ducks, loons and terns.
>"With so much at stake for both people and wildlife, decisive action is
needed right now to limit mercury emissions, because once mercury pollution
goes up into the atmosphere, rain carries it right back down into the very
water on which humans and wildlife depend," said Nolan Bennett, Program
Director for Michigan Clean Water Action.  "We are starting a campaign to
speak with residents living near these coal-fired power plants which pollute
our air and our water. Once it becomes public knowledge that modernizing
these dirty coal-fired power plants is a solution to reducing the mercury in
our fish and the smog in our air, the plants will have to clean-up their
dirty act."
>Nationally, more than a third of mercury emissions come from coal-fired
power plants, with the remainder coming from municipal waste incinerators
and medical waste incinerators.  In the Great Lakes region, coal combustion
causes over half the mercury emissions.  Coal contains trace amounts of
mercury that are released into the air as it is burned for energy. When
medical devices such as thermometers and blood pressure cuffs or household
items like flourescent lights, lamps and thermostats are discarded and
burned, the residual mercury is emitted into the atmosphere.
>"Coal-burning power plants are a dominant source of pollutants, which are
at the heart of our most serious long-term environmental health
problems,"said James Clift, Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental
Council."The Michigan DEQ itself has said these plants are the leading
source of mercury pollution in Michigan.  When the legislature addresses
electrical industry restructuring this fall, it has a perfect opportunity to
reduce the toxic emissions these plants cause."
>"While the news of the danger raining down from our skies is frightening,
much can be done at the local, state and national levels to reduce the
risk," said Julie Metty, water quality expert with the National Wildlife
Federation.  "State agencies and the U.S. EPA need to begin monitoring for
mercury in rain in Detroit and other Michigan cities."
>The Clean the Rain Campaign calls on major industry to drastically reduce
emissions and asks citizens to help cut mercury pollution by conserving
energy, not purchasing consumer products that contain mercury, or if they do
purchase them, disposing of them properly.  The Campaign also calls on
federal and state governments to more closely monitor mercury levels in
rainfall. Monitoring for mercury in Detroit's  rain ended in 1997.
>"A drop of mercury as small as 1/70th of a teaspoon can contaminate a
25-acre lake to the point that the fish in it are unsafe to eat," said James
Goodheart, Executive Director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.
"When you consider a typical 100 megawatt power plant emits about 25 pounds
of mercury a year, the potential for tremendous ecological problems becomes
alarmingly clear."
>The nation's largest member-supported conservation advocacy and education
group, the National Wildlife Federation unites people from all walks of life
to protect nature, wildlife, and the world we all share.  The Federation has
educated and inspired families to uphold America's conservation tradition
since 1936.  Its common-sense approach to environmental protection brings
individuals, organizations, and governments together to ensure a brighter
future for people and wildlife.
>The entire Clean the Rain report is available in pdf format from
>Julie C. Metty,  Water Quality Project Organizer
>National Wildlife Federation
>506 East Liberty St., 2nd Floor
>Ann Arbor, MI 48104
>p: 734-769-3351 * f: 734-769-1449

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