PROPOSES NEW MEASURES TO PROTECT COMMUNITIES FROM MERCURY
New regulations would reduce emissions of mercury that contaminate
air, water and fish
(03/175) TRENTON -- New
Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner
Bradley M. Campbell today announced the proposal of new
rules that would reduce mercury emissions from power plants,
iron and steel melters, and municipal solid waste incinerators.
These rules will help to reduce mercury contamination in
water and fish that poses a serious public health risk for
New Jersey's communities.
"New Jersey's largest sources of mercury
air pollution must use today's technology wherever possible
to protect our children and families from the harm that
exposure to mercury causes," said Commissioner Campbell.
"These rules will reduce annual emissions of mercury
by up to 1,500 pounds statewide."
Exposure to the most toxic form of mercury
comes primarily from eating contaminated fish and shellfish.
Children and pregnant women are especially susceptible to
mercury contamination, which can cause permanent brain damage
to the fetus, infants, and young children. Mercury exposure
has been shown to affect the ability of children to pay
attention, remember, talk, draw, run, see, and play.
Even exposure to low levels can permanently
damage the brain and nervous system and cause behavioral
changes. Scientists estimate up to 60,000 children may be
born annually in the United States with neurological problems
leading to poor school performance because of mercury exposure
while in utero.
"Now that the Bush Administration
has chosen to neglect the environmental harms caused by
mercury, New Jersey yet again must shoulder the responsibility
of protecting public health," Campbell said. "If
New Jersey's rules were enacted nationally, annual mercury
emissions from coal-fired power plants alone would decline
from approximately 48 tons to about five tons."
Last week, Bush Administration officials
announced a proposal to let coal-fired power plants trade
credits, gaining financially for mercury emission reductions
already mandated by the Clean Air Act. The Bush proposal
would reduce plants' mercury emissions by only one-third
of what the Clean Air Act requires and would allow many
plants to continue their mercury emissions unabated. The
cap-and-trade form of mercury controls would allow several
times more emissions than a Clinton-era plan that called
for a technology-based control standard for all facilities.
The Bush scheme also extends the deadline for full compliance
to 2018 from a court-approved deadline of 2007.
Joining the Commissioner at today's announcement
were Senator Barbara Buono, Vice President of the National
Environmental Trust John Stanton, and members of environmental
and fishing advocacy groups.
"It was gratifying that the Governor
signed my bill into law, which would require that alert
notices on consuming mercury-tainted fish be posted in doctor's
offices that pregnant women and their children may frequent,"
said Senator Buono. "Providing important public health
information to parents was an excellent first step in the
process to bring awareness of mercury dangers to the public."
"I commend Commissioner Campbell for
proposing new regulations that will actually lower toxic
emissions from many sources helping to reduce mercury contamination
in fish and water," Senator Buono added.
"Last week, the White House dramatically
reduced federal mercury safeguards for pregnant woman and
children," Stanton said. "With the Bush Administration
willing to sacrifice public health for polluter profits,
state efforts like these are more important than ever."
DEP's proposed regulations call for up
to a 90 percent reduction of mercury emissions from the
state's 10 coal-fired boilers in power plants by 2007. The
rules allow for some flexibility, giving plants the option
of meeting the standards by 2012 if they also make major
reductions in their emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen
oxides, and fine particulates.
The new regulations also mandate a reduction
of mercury emissions from the state's six iron and steel
melters by 75 percent by 2009. The state estimates that
iron and steel manufacturing plants are the largest New
Jersey-based sources of mercury emissions, with much of
their materials coming from shredded automobiles' scrap
The proposal also calls for a further reduction
of mercury emissions from New Jersey's five municipal solid
waste (MSW) incinerators of at least 95 percent below 1990
levels by 2011. Previous rules enacted in 1994 have already
significantly reduced emissions from MSW incinerators, leading
to a reduction of 4,000 pounds of mercury emitted into New
Jersey's atmosphere annually.
The rules also contain standards for medical
waste incinerators that are already being met by the three
facilities operating in New Jersey. These protective standards
will ensure that these incinerators continue to minimize
mercury emissions, allowing for a maximum level of emissions
that is one-tenth the current federal limit.
Mercury is a problem both from long-range
sources and from regional and local sources. Contaminated
fish have been found in remote areas of the state, such
as the Pine Barrens, as well as in industrialized areas.
Mercury can contaminate waterbodies either directly through
runoff or from air pollution that deposits in the water.
Once in an aquatic ecosystem, it accumulates in the tissues
of plants and animals as methylmercury, the most toxic and
harmful form of mercury.
New Jersey is one of 41 states that has
issued fish advisories for certain species of fish contaminated
with mercury. Studies have shown, that reducing mercury
emissions can significantly reduce contamination in nearby
ecosystems. In Florida, scientists found that mercury concentrations
in fish and wading birds in the Everglades have declined
by 60 to 70 percent in the last 10 years as a result of
controls in mercury emissions in neighboring industries.
DEP developed today's rules in consultation
with other governmental agencies, universities, scientists,
regulated industry officials, and environmental and public
health advocates. The rules are also similar to regulations
adopted in Connecticut and Wisconsin and proposed in Massachusetts.
The proposed rules will appear in the January
5, 2004 New Jersey Register and are subject to a 60-day
public comment period.