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Mercury emissions down significantly in North Carolina

Photograph taken by Dori (dori@merr.info)
Wikimedia Commons

The levels of toxic mercury floating around in North Carolina’s air have taken a stunning nosedive over the last ten years.  WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports that a recent study by the North Carolina Division of Air Quality shows the Clean Smokestack Act is making a difference.

The newest analysis from the DAQ – released late last week -- shows that coal-fired power plants in North Carolina have cut their mercury emissions by more than 70 percent.  Tom Mathers, spokesman for the State Division of Air Quality, says the reduction is a direct result of the Clean Smokestack Act – passed in 2002.

“The power companies were required under the Clean Smokestack Act to reduce their emissions that cause ozone and haze, acid rain and other problems.  And they had to install equipment that we call ‘scrubbers’ and other air pollution controls on their largest power plants.”

Those pollution control devices are removing more than 90% of the mercury from air emissions at the facilities, says Mathers.  State environmental officials say the reductions are larger than expected.  But the problem of toxic mercury isn’t yet solved.  Mathers says most of the mercury pollution in North Carolina – about 84 percent – comes from sources outside the state.  

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.