New Report: Lamprey, Great Bay Impaired by Mercury Pollution from NH and Midwest Power Plants.

Environment New Hampshire

Concord, NH – Five rivers flowing into the Great Bay are contaminated with Mercury—according to the new Environment New Hampshire report, Dirty Energy’s Assault on our Health: Mercury. The report found that power plants in New Hampshire emitted 312 pounds of mercury pollution in 2009. Midwestern plants emitted over 55,000 pounds of pollution threatening the New Hampshire forests. The report comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is set to propose a standard by March to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants.

“Powering our homes should not poison New Hampshire’s kids,” said Jessica O’Hare, Program Associate for Environment New Hampshire. “Mercury pollution from power plants puts our kids and our environment at risk, and we need the Environmental Protection Agency to force these facilities to clean up.”

Mercury pollution is a widespread health risk. “One in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put her unborn child at risk for the health effects of mercury pollution, including learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and lower IQs, should she become pregnant,” said Michael Mooney, President of NH PTA. “There’s no reason that we should be putting our kids health at stake. At NH PTA we promote a healthy environment so that our kids can continue to grow and learn,” continues Mooney.

Coal-fired power plants, which are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, emit mercury into our air. The mercury then falls into our waterways from rain or snow, where it builds up in fish then the animals—and people—that consume the fish. As Vice President of NH Rivers Council, David Borden of New Castle asks, “Why can’t we eat what we catch? Catch and release should be an option, not a necessity.”

Dick Smith of the Bass Federation agrees that “families should be able to vacation in New Hampshire, go fishing, and enjoy a nice fish dinner that they themselves have provided without having to worry about eating those fish.”

The state passed a mercury law in 2006 to reduce mercury emissions, but they have not established a baseline for mercury emissions from Merrimack Station to monitor reduction performance. “New Hampshire is tired of waiting for cleaner air,” says Cathy Corkerey of Sierra Club. “Wide ranging test results and continuous delays supported are not good for reliable public health or our environment,” continues Corkerey. Patchwork mercury standards slow effective reduction of the neurotoxin, while Congress has failed to pass a federal standard.

Our research found that:
• Mercury pollution harms our environment. Fish and animals that consume fish suffer from reproductive failure and mortality as a result of mercury pollution. More U.S. waters are closed to fishing because of mercury contamination than because of any other toxic contamination problem. The EPA found that the Piscataqua, Oyster River, Lamprey River and the Winnicut are impaired streams from mercury and other pollutants.
• Power plants in New Hampshire emitted 312 pounds of mercury pollution in 2009. Merrimack Station in Bow 214 pounds of mercury in 2009, ranking it first among New Hampshire’s plants. In total, coal-fired power plants emitted 138,259 pounds of mercury in 2009.
• Five of the top 10 dirtiest power plants were found in Pennsylvania and West Virginia just downwind of the Granite state. Midwestern power plants emitted over 55,000 pounds of Mercury Pollution in 2009.

As one of the largest providers of reproductive health care in the region, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England supports the growing evidence linking chemical exposure to infertility, pregnancy loss, adverse birth outcomes, various cancers and other health issues. “The steepest rise in infertility in the past 13 years for women 25 and under reached 41%. This makes it clear that we must begin to turn our attention to environmental toxins like mercury”, said Kary Jencks of Planned Parenthood. “Mercury affects the ability of women to become pregnant, have healthy pregnancies, and give birth to healthy babies.”

The report comes as the EPA is set to propose a standard to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants in March, and finalize the standard by November. Environment New Hampshire is calling on the EPA to issue a strong standard that will significantly reduce these harmful pollutants from power plants, and specifically cut mercury pollution by more than 90%. But while the EPA is undertaking this rulemaking, Congress and industry lobbyists are working to prevent the EPA from doing its job, by threatening to introduce legislation to block this and other rules to limit dangerous air pollution.

“New Hampshire’s parents do everything they can to protect their children’s health; now it’s time for the EPA to do its part,” said O’Hare. “Senators Shaheen and Ayotte should stand up for New Hampshire’s families and support the EPA.”