Officials: EPA mercury rules to help Adirondack lakes, ponds

Green groups from the Adirondack Park are pleased with new federal standards that propose to limit mercury and other emissions from power plants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed the new emissions standards last week following a decision by a federal Court of Appeals in a lawsuit brought forth by a nationwide coalition of health and environmental groups.

The proposed regulations would limit the emission of mercury, arsenic and other power plant air pollutants, steps that experts say would reverse damage to Adirondack lakes and ponds.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson called the proposed regulations a "significant milestone" in protecting the environment from the "damaging effects of toxic air pollution."

"With the help of existing technologies, we will be able to take reasonable steps that will provide dramatic protections to our children and love ones, preventing premature deaths, heart attacks, and asthma attacks," Jackson said.

According to Jackson, power plants are the primary source of several toxic air pollutants and are responsible for half of all mercury and acid gas emissions in the country.

The proposed EPA standards would require power plants to install state-of-the-art pollution control technologies aimed at cutting harmful emissions.

Neil Woodworth is executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, one of the many environmental groups backing the new regulations.

Woodworth says that after two decades of "uncertainty," the federal government will now have the authority to regulate toxic chemicals that he says have had a "devastating impact" on the Adirondacks.

"Because of the technology required to meet this standard, it will not only cut mercury contamination by 91 percent, it will also reduce fine particulate matter, low-level ozone and acidic precipitation," Woodworth said.

According to Woodworth, some 96 percent of Adirondack lakes already exceed the EPA's maximum recommended mercury level.

Additionally, two-thirds of Adirondack loons carry "risky" levels of mercury.

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