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Devra Davis (left), founder and president of Environmental Health Trust, watches as Matthew Ward, a field associate with PennEnvironment, holds a report detailing mercury emissions.

Pennsylvania power plants emit more mercury pollution

– 15,550 pounds in 2009 – than power plants in every other state except Texas, according to a recently released report by Penn-Environment.

The report, “Dirty Energy’s Assault on our Health: Mercury,” points to RRI Energy Inc. Keystone Power Plant in Shelocta as the second-most polluting plant for mercury emissions in the country. The report says it emits 2,164 pounds of mercury every year.

RRI Energy Inc. Conemaugh Power Plant in New Florence is the fourth-most polluting plant in the country, emitting 2,060 pounds of mercury every year.

Another top 10 offender is Cambria Cogen Co. in Ebensburg, which emits 1,644 pounds of mercury per year, the eighth-worst polluter in the country.

“Our message is clear: Powering our homes should not poison Pennsylvania’s families,” said Matthew Ward, a western Pennsylvania field associate with Penn-Environment. “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.”

This report comes as the EPA is set to propose a standard to limit mercury and other toxic air pollution from power plants in March.

“Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the U.S.,” Ward said. “They emit mercury into our air, which then falls into our waterways as rain or snow where it builds up in fish and enters the food chain.”

To put into perspective the seriousness of mercury pollution, a gram-sized drop can contaminate a 20-acre lake.

Devra Davis, founder and president of Environmental Health Trust, said now is the time to take action because mercury poisoning causes permanent damage and poses a significant threat to public health.

“We need to prevent deaths now and ensure a healthier future for our kids and grandchildren,” she said. “Because mercury is the most common contaminant in fish in the U.S., every state has set some sort of fish ban due to unsafe levels of mercury.”

The EPA estimates that one in six women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her bloodstream to put the unborn child at risk for learning disabilities, developmental disorders and lower IQs.

“We call on the EPA to minimize the effects of mercury pollution, which can cause devastating neurological damage in developing fetuses and young children,” said Rebecca Cavanaugh, vice president of public affairs, Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania.

Ward added that PennEnvironment is urging the EPA to issue a strong standard that will significantly reduce harmful pollutants from power plants, and cut mercury pollution by 90 percent.

The entire report appears at  www.PennEnvironment.org.

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