Mercury rules crucial for Adirondacks

Dangerous levels of mercury have been found in loons. Photo by Larry Master
Dangerous levels of mercury have been found in loons. Photo by Larry Master

House Republicans are doing everything they can to stop the EPA from implementing court-ordered regulations to control mercury discharges from coal-fired power plants. These regulations have been in the works for nearly a decade and are long overdue. Mercury is poisoning life in the Adirondacks.

Every year Midwest coal-fired plants spew out fifty tons of mercury that occurs as an impurity in locally mined coal. The Adirondacks are downwind from these plants, and the Park gets dumped on in the form of wet and dry deposition. Acid rain-causing sulfur and nitrogen oxides are also in this mix. The Adirondacks are particularly vulnerable to mercury because we are (1) heavily forested, (2) we have many wetlands, and (3) we have acid soils. All three work together to increase the conversion of the relatively benign elemental form of mercury to the toxic methylmercury, which magnifies as it travels up the food chain.

Ninety-six percent of all lakes in the Adirondacks have sport fish that exceed the recommended health levels of mercury in their flesh. Loons, which are making a comeback in the Park, are also showing dangerous levels of mercury contamination. All this is from the air that originates outside of the Blue Line. National laws are the only thing that can halt the onslaught of this otherwise pristine landscape.

Mike Storey, Saranac Lake

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