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GLIN==> Northeast Plan to Reduce Mercury Impacts



For Release: IMMEDIATE						     
Contact: Maureen Wren
Thursday, January 17, 2008						
          (518) 402-8000

PLAN TO REDUCE MERCURY IMPACTS IN FISH APPROVED BY EPA
New York Calls on EPA to Implement New Pollution Controls, Continues
In-State Efforts

	A multi-state plan to reduce mercury in the waters of New York
and New England has been approved by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation (DEC) announced today. The approval was a necessary step to
implement a collaboration between New York, Connecticut, Maine,
Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont to reduce
mercury and make freshwater fish safer to eat. 

	DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said: "New York is pleased that
EPA has agreed with the scientific evidence showing mercury’s negative
effects on the environment and public health, but EPA needs to follow up
with a national program to more effectively control harmful air
emissions. New York State will remain diligent in monitoring the impacts
of mercury and pursue ongoing initiatives that will make a positive
difference for our residents and natural communities."
	
	Mercury is a toxic pollutant that accumulates in the
environment. It pollutes the air through processes that use coal to
generate electric power. Mercury also can combine with other elements to
form both inorganic and organic compounds, and exposure to these or high
levels of metallic mercury can damage the nervous system and kidneys.
Women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children are particularly
vulnerable. Exposure to unsafe levels of the pollutant could cause
children to suffer brain damage or behavioral and developmental
problems.

	The vast majority of mercury pollution affecting New York comes
from air emissions - much of it from out-of-state sources. Mercury
impairs at least 80 waters in New York to an extent that violates state
and federal law.

	Eating fish caught in New York can yield health benefits, and
fishing in New York State offers numerous recreational and economic
opportunities. But in order to reduce the potential exposure to unwanted
contaminants like mercury, the New York State Department of Health has
developed fish consumption advisories that inform people about which
fish and game to avoid and how to reduce their exposures to contaminants
in the fish and game that they do eat. The advisories can be found at
www.nyhealth.gov/environmental/outdoors/fish/fish.htm . Fish
advisories exist for waters throughout the state including Onondaga
Lake, several New York City water supply reservoirs, Lake Champlain,
Rushford Lake in Allegany County, and Great Sacandaga Lake in Fulton and
Saratoga counties. 

The multi-state plan’s goal is to reduce atmospheric deposition of
mercury to the region by between 86 percent and 98 percent, allowing
fish-tissue mercury levels to decline and enabling the states to
discontinue fish consumption advisories. The multi-state plan, called
the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL),
recommends actions to be taken by EPA, including the implementation of a
stringent national mercury control program, and also for the
Northeastern states to continue building upon existing state initiatives
that will control mercury contamination. 

	While EPA approved the TMDL, the agency did not address many of
the recommendations called for by New York and the other states to
address the lack of federal action to effectively control the extensive
out-of-state mercury emissions impacting the Northeastern resources.
Specifically, the TMDL seeks a national program to address sources such
as coal-fired power plants in the Midwest that have ongoing harmful
effects on other states’ environment and public health. 

	"Now that EPA has acknowledged the need for substantial mercury
reductions, it needs to step up and impose the emission limits needed to
protect and restore our waterways," Grannis added.

	Major contributing sources of mercury emissions include
coal-fired power plants, cement plants, sewage sludge incinerators,
among others, and these sources are being targeted by the states to
achieve reductions. The TMDL acknowledges the success of the Northeast
states in eliminating many in-state sources of mercury contamination.
Nearly a decade of work has resulted in regional reductions of greater
than 70 percent in mercury emissions and discharges, including a 90
percent reduction in emissions from municipal waste incinerators. 

	While advocating for federal action on out-of-state sources, New
York will continue to focus on ways to implement mercury reductions from
sources within the state. The five largest mercury emitters in New York
are the LaFarge cement plant and four coal-fired power plants in Albany
County, NRG’s Huntley and Dunkirk plants in Western New York, AES’s
Somerset plant in Niagara County, and Dynegy’s Danskammer plant on the
Hudson River.

	New York recently adopted new air regulations, significantly
more stringent than the federal government’s requirements, which will
cut mercury emissions from coal-fired utilities by 90 percent by 2015.
As Attorney General, Governor Eliot Spitzer led New York in a lawsuit
against EPA’s a cap-and-trade system for regulating mercury emissions
from power plants. The states argue that the EPA’s program will delay
emissions reduction for many years, perpetuate hot spots of local
mercury deposition and pose a serious threat to the health of children.


	In the absence of federal leadership on the regulation of other
large in-state mercury contributors, DEC is currently examining
technologies for cement plants that would substantially reduce mercury
emissions. New York has also joined with other states in a legal
challenge to the federal government for adopting a rule that does not
adequately regulate mercury and other pollutants from existing cement
plants. 

	Among other solid waste reduction initiatives, DEC has enacted
prohibitions on the possession and use of non-encapsulated elemental
mercury in dental offices, while also requiring dentists to recycle any
elemental mercury or dental amalgam (used in tooth fillings) waste to
help prevent this material from entering landfills, incinerators, or
sewer systems. In addition, the state is continuing efforts to require
wastewater treatment plants to prepare mercury minimization plans and to
conduct mercury monitoring using the most effective analytical
methods.	

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