Opinion: Five cheers for new mercury standards

Opinion: Five cheers for new mercury standards
(Stock photo)

To the editor:

On December 16, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected (operative word) to pass one of the most important safeguards in the last decade when it finalizes a rule to limit the amount of toxic mercury coming from power plants.

I emphasize the word “expected” because action could be delayed due to opposition from some states and power companies. As the outgoing chair of the Washington Metropolitan Air Quality Committee and a long-time opponent of the Potomac River Generating Station, I have come to know the danger mercury poses to the health of our families and the importance of this proposed rule.

Mercury emissions are transported through the air and deposited on water and land, where they enter the food supply exposing humans and wildlife. Mercury has been linked to reproductive health problems, heart attacks, and developmental disabilities. It can adversely affect neurological development in fetuses, infants and children. Mercury exposure in the womb can occur through a mother’s consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish that contain mercury. This can affect a baby’s brain and nervous system impacting his or her cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language and fine motor skills.

Much smaller sources of mercury emissions such as waste-to-energy plants were required to install state of the art mercury controls more than a decade ago. It is about time that larger sources such as power plants be required to install these controls. Five cheers for the new rule.

– Del Pepper
Alexandria City Council member