A new report by Environment America reveals that Kentucky’s coal-fired power plants emitted 5,930 pounds of mercury in 2009, placing the commonwealth as the 6th worst emitter of toxic mercury in the nation right behind Indiana (ranked 5th), which spewed 6,046 pounds during the same year.
Titled “Dirty Energy’s Assault on Our Health: Mercury,” (Warning: PDF linkage) the report utilzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which only includes emissions that have been reported to the EPA, thus potentially rendering the numbers far lower than might actually be the case.
“Our dependence on oil and coal-fired power plants has broad detrimental impacts on our health and our environment,” reads the report’s executive summary. “Power plants represent America’s single biggest source of air pollution, affecting our waterways, destroying ecosystems, and polluting the air we breathe. Pollution from coal-fired power plants in particular contributes to four of the five leading causes of mortality in the United States: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic respiratory diseases.”
In response to the news, the Sierra Club issued a press release, excerpts of which you can read after the jump …
(Bold emphasis mine)
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that puts pregnant women at-risk for birth defects in their children including learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and lower IQs. One in six American women has mercury levels in her blood high enough to put her baby at risk, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Powering our homes should not poison Kentucky’s and Indiana’s kids,” said Thomas Pearce, Sierra Club organizer. “This report shows that toxic mercury pollution from coal plants has reached unacceptable levels.”
The Environment America report found that 11 electric utilities in Kentucky and Indiana rank in the nation’s top 100 emitters of toxic mercury. The worst offender in Indiana was the American Electric Power Rockport Plant in Rockport, which emitted 1,226 pounds of mercury in 2009; while the worst offender in Kentucky was the Spurlock Power Station in Maysville, which emitted 921 pounds of mercury in 2009. Other plants in the worst 100 included the LG&E Mill Creek Station in Louisville, KY; IPL Petersburg station in Petersburg, IN; Big Rivers II in Robarbs, KY; Merom Generating Station in Sullivan, IN; Nipso RMShahfer Generating Station in Wheatfield, IN; AEP Big Sandy in Louisa, KY; Kentucky Utilities Co. Station in Ghent, KY; Clifty Creek Station in Madison, IN; and Duke Energy Gibson Generating Station in Owensville, IN.
“Toxic mercury from the Mill Creek and Cane Run power plants are making us sick,” said Kathy Little of Louisville, KY. “Kentuckiana parents need the Environmental Protection Agency to do its job, and protect our children’s health.
Mercury pollution is emitted into the air from coal-fired power plants, then falls into waterways from rain or snow. Mercury is then known to build up in fish then the animals—and people—that consume the fish, putting them at risk for reproductive failure and mortality. Studies suggest that even a gram-sized drop of mercury can contaminate an entire 20 acre lake. On the border of Kentucky and Indiana, the Ohio River is threatened with mercury pollution.
In other coal-related news, a new blog, Louisville Residents for Coal Plant Justice, was started this week in advance of the mercury study in an effort to educate the public about LG&E’s plans for a new coal ash landfill in the alreadt-polluted/fucked-over Rubbertown neighborhood. Add it to your RSS reader to keep abreast of the latest in Louisville environmental justice goings-on.