New Data Shows Florida Power Plants Emit 15th Most Mercury Pollution Nationally

Environment Florida Research & Policy Center

Miami, Florida – Florida’s power plants emit more mercury pollution than power plants in 35 other states, according to brand new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data outlined in Environment Florida’s latest report, America’s Biggest Mercury Polluters. The report found that in total, power plants in Florida emitted 1,522 pounds of mercury pollution in 2010. Environment Florida’s report comes as EPA is set to finalize a standard to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants next month.

“Parents in Florida shouldn’t have to worry that their children’s bodies are toxic dumping grounds,” said Paul Rolfe, federal field organizer for Environment Florida.  “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 Florida, with 2/3 of all airborne mercury pollution in Florida 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. Even a small drop of mercury is enough to make the fish in a 25-acre lake unsafe to eat.  

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, every state in the country has issued an advisory warning against the consumption of species of fish that tend to have dangerous levels of mercury.

Phil Compton, Organizing Representative with the Sierra Club, pointed out how big of a problem mercury really is for Florida.

“Floridians have been warned of the risks of frequently eating 80 different types of fish caught all over our state,” said Compton.  “It’s time to protect the health of unborn children and clean up this dangerous source of pollution so that Florida families can again eat fish without fear.”

The report comes as EPA is poised to finalize a landmark standard to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants in December. This will be the first time in history that EPA limits toxic mercury pollution from power plants, and once fully implemented, the new standard as proposed would 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 and industry lobbyists 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 Rolfe. “Senators Nelson and Rubio should stand up for Florida’s families by supporting EPA’s much-needed standard, and oppose efforts by polluters and their allies in Congress to delay or block EPA’s efforts.”