Airborne mercury pollution, much of which is blown in from coal-fired power stations of the Midwest, deposited in the rivers, lakes and ponds of the region have led to a swathe of public warnings urging fishermen not to eat their catch because of the health risks.

Elevated levels of mercury in certain species, such as bass and walleye, are of great concern and have resulted in statewide fish consumption advisories for more than 10,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and over 46,000 river miles in region.

Now seven states – New York, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont – have teamed up to produce an action plan which they believe would allow the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to go some way to address the problem.

The draft plan, the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), was announced by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner Pete Grannis on Wednesday.

“New York and the New England States have made great strides in controlling mercury, but there is more that can and must be done,” Commissioner Grannis said.

“This Northeast regional TMDL will help address the link between mercury emissions and mercury pollution in water and highlights the need for implementation of a comprehensive, nationwide mercury reduction strategy that would improve the natural resources not only in New York, but in all states.”

The plan aims to create a starting place for initiatives to control atmospheric deposition to levels where it is no longer necessary to issue health warnings on fish consumption.

While several schemes have already successfully reduced mercury levels in the region, the TMDL suggests total contamination would need to be cut by 98% in the worst affected areas before advisory notices could be lifted.

Although the seven states have drawn up the plan, the EPA would need to act on it for

Progress to be made.

The consultation papers and the draft itself can be found on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website.

Sam Bond

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