EPA: Mercury Emissions Must Be Reduced

Dec. 15, 2000
Millions of tons of mercury emitted from power plants "pose\r\nsignificant hazards to public health and must be reduced," says EPA.

Millions of tons of mercury emitted from power plants "pose significant hazards to public health and must be reduced," EPA Administrator Carol Browner announced yesterday.

The agency will propose regulations by 2003 and issue final rules by 2004.

"Exposure to mercury poses real risks to public health, especially to children and developing fetuses," said Browner. "The greatest source of mercury emissions is power plants, and they have never been required to control these emissions before now."

Power plants, especially those that burn coal, account for an estimated 40 million tons of mercury getting into the air and water annually, according to a National Academy of Sciences study.

Exposure to mercury has been associated with both neurological and developmental damage in humans.

People are exposed to mercury primarily through eating fish that have been contaminated when mercury from power plants and other sources is deposited to water bodies.

EPA recommends that subsistence fisherman, pregnant women and others should always heed state fishing advisories.

Under the Clean Air Act, EPA is required to study toxic air pollution from power plants in order to determine if additional regulations are necessary in order to protect public health.

The decision yesterday sets no requirements on how much utilities will have to reduce mercury emissions, nor what technology they will have to install to meet the eventual federal standard.

Those requirements will be determined in regulations that are not expected to be formally proposed until late 2003, and then issued a year later.

When fully implemented in 2005, the existing rules will reduce total human-caused mercury emissions by nearly 50 percent from 1990 levels nationwide, according to EPA.

The utility industry had expected EPA action and had hoped that the agency would provide time to address the problem.

Utilities have argued that the technology necessary for major reductions of mercury from coal-burning power plants will take time to develop.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!