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Megan Severson,
Wisconsin Environment Research and Policy Center

New Data Shows Wisconsin Power Plants Emit 19th Most Mercury Pollution Nationally

For Immediate Release

Madison, WI– Wisconsin's power plants emit more mercury pollution than power plants in over 30 other states, according to brand new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data outlined in Wisconsin Environment latest report, Wisconsin's Biggest Mercury Polluters. The report found that in total, power plants in Wisconsin emitted 1329 pounds of mercury pollution in 2010. Wisconsin Environment’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 Wisconsin shouldn’t have to worry that their children’s bodies are toxic dumping grounds,” said Scott Thompson, Clean Energy Associate for Wisconsin Environment. “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. 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.

Wisconsin Environment's report found that Wisconsin's power plants emit more mercury pollution than power plants in 31 other states. Wisconsin Environment's report also found that the Columbia Energy Center power plant in Pardeeville emits the most mercury pollution of any power plant in Wisconsin and the 30th most in the country. In total, power plants in Wisconsin emitted 1329 pounds of mercury pollution in 2010.

“It's clear that mercury pollution poses a massive threat to the public health of Wisconsinites, especially women and young children. Parents shouldn't have to worry about whether or not the energy they use to power their homes is impairing their children's ability to read, write, think walk and talk," said Andrea Kaminski, Executive Director, League of Women Voters of Wisconsin Education Network. “It's important that we continue to collect, analyze and present this information on Wisconsin's power plants so citizens understand the serious public health hazard posed by mercury pollution."

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 Thompson. “Senators Kohl and Johnson should stand up for Wisconsin families by supporting the EPA’s much needed standard, and oppose efforts by polluters and their allies in Congress to delay or block EPA’s efforts.”

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Wisconsin Environment is a statewide, citizen-funded, environmental advocacy organization that works for clean air, clean water and open spaces.