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Jennette Gayer,
Environment Georgia

New Data Shows Georgia Power Plants Emit 1,154 Pounds of Mercury--23rd Most Nationally

For Immediate Release

Atlanta, GA –Georgia’s power plants still release over 1,154 pounds of mercury, according to brand new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data outlined in Environment Georgia latest report, Georgia’s Biggest Mercury Polluters.  Even a small drop of mercury is enough to make the fish in a 25-acre lake unsafe to eat.  

Environment Georgia’s report comes as EPA is set to finalize a standard to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants this week.

“Parents in Georgia shouldn’t have to worry that their children’s bodies are toxic dumping grounds,” said Jennette Gayer, Policy Advocate for Environment Georgia.  “The Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward to protect our children’s health from toxic mercury pollution, and we can’t let big polluters stand in the way.“

The report uses just-released 2010 emissions data from EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, which uses self-reported data from power plants and other facilities to track how much of a variety of toxic substances the facilities release into the air.  Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the country, with 2/3 of all airborne mercury pollution coming from these power plants. They emit mercury into our air, which then falls into our waterways with rain or snow, where it builds up in fish and enters the food chain.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin that harms growing children and pollutes our environment.   Mercury exposure can lead to irreversible deficits in verbal skills, damage to attention and motor control, and reduced IQ. Mercury pollution is so widespread that new EPA estimates show one in ten women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her child at risk, should she become pregnant.

As a result of widespread mercury contamination, Georgia has issued an advisory warning against the consumption of fish in all river basins but one (the Tallapoosa) in Georgia.

Georgia ranked 22nd amongst states for mercury emissions. An improvement from data reported in 2009.The improvements are a result of a state technology rule that passed in 2007 which has required power plant operators to install technology to capture mercury and other pollutants at some of Georgia’s coal-burning power plant facilities.

“We’ve seen some reductions in mercury emissions in Georgia—but not enough,” explained Gayer. “This new rule will be more protective of public health, and the good news is we’ve got a head start in Georgia.”

The new EPA standard, which is expected to be released Friday December 16, will likely reduce overall power plant emissions of mercury by more than 90 percent. But while EPA is in the process of issuing this final standard, Congress, industry lobbyists and Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens, are working to keep EPA from doing its job by threatening to block this and other rules that limit dangerous air pollution.

“EPA’s proposed mercury standard will protect children and families from a known poison,” said Gayer. “Attorney General Olens and the rest of our elected officials should stand up for Georgia’s families by supporting EPA’s much needed standard, and oppose efforts by polluters  to delay or block EPA’s efforts.”