Opponents to Gov. Blagojevich's proposal to reduce mercury emissions from coal fired power plants by 90 percent are fond of claiming that there is no proof that requiring these reductions will do anything to protect the health of Illinois' residents.
Phillip M. Gonet, president of the Illinois Coal Association, told the Southern Illinoisan in January: "To think there is going to be any kind of environmental impact by enforcing a rule like this is absolutely ludicrous," Gonet said. "This rule will have absolutely no impact on the environment at all. This is a case of using an anvil to kill a fly."
However, a recent study by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection found major improvements after enacting mercury emission reductions for incinerators.
Seven years after Massachusetts enacted the nation's toughest mercury emission laws for incinerators, amounts of the toxic metal have declined by 32 percent in a signature freshwater fish caught near some of those facilities. [snip]
The mercury decline appears to stem from two efforts that began in 1998. First, the Department of Environmental Protection began requiring the state's nine trash incinerators to scrub or remove 85 percent of the mercury emitted from their smokestacks. Old batteries, thermostats, thermometers, and fluorescent lights all contribute to the emissions.
Today, only seven incinerators remain, and they scrub about 90 percent of the mercury. Incinerators continue to operate in North Andover, Haverhill, Saugus, Rochester, Millbury, Springfield, and Pittsfield. (Fall River and Lawrence incinerators have closed.)
Second, the state once had 240 medical waste incinerators that burned items such as mercury thermometers, but those incinerators began closing at a greater rate as federal and state rules tightened. The last one closed in 2003.
The results in Massachusetts are similar to the impact found in the Everglades by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Human caused mercury emissions from industrial sources in south Florida, principally incinerators, have come under effective control during the past decade; emissions of mercury in south Florida have declined by 90%. Subsequently, mercury in Fish and wildlife of the Everglades has declined by about 75% to date.
Originally posted at Illinois EnviroBlog.