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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce the finalization of the first-ever nationwide standards for mercury pollution from power plants today. The announcement will be made in a Washington, D.C., area hospital at 2 p.m. Florida currently ranks 15th in the nation for mercury pollution (.pdf) from power plants, and the Everglades currently has the highest levels in the state.
The regulation is the most expensive order being considered by the administration, and was formally signed by the EPA earlier this month. Many coal-reliant power producers have urged the EPA to give companies an additional year to comply with the new rules.
Originally posted by Afterthought
reply to post by kn0wh0w
Yeah, that video is classic. Soon, you'll start to hear:
Mercury! It's what's for dinner!
Radiation! The breakfast of champions!
The rate of idiocy is overwhelming.
Mercury in South Florida has caused major problems for the ecology and diversity of the Everglades. Coupled with sulfate (an agent used by agriculture in fertilizers and to control algal blooms), mercury becomes methylmercury — a substance that drastically alters the reproductive hormones of wading birds and even the endangered Florida panther.
As previously reported by The Florida Independent, one study conducted in the Everglades found that the ibis population was declining in large part due to altered mating habits — a direct result of mercury consumption. Mercury not only affected the ibis’ courtship habits, but also altered hormones, which led to a high percentage of male birds mating with other males. This particular study was the first that documented mercury’s effects on a bird’s sexual preference.
When University of Florida researchers began studying the effects of mercury consumption on white ibises, they had a hunch the contaminant might affect the birds' ability to produce chicks.
And while their suspicions of poor breeding were confirmed, they didn’t expect this: altered courtship behavior in males and high percentages of male birds mating with other males.
“We knew that mercury can disrupt hormones – what is most disturbing about this study is the low levels of mercury at which we saw effects on hormones and mating behavior,” said Peter Frederick, a UF wildlife ecology and conservation professor who led the five-year study. “This suggests that wildlife may be commonly affected.”
The study marks the first time that mercury’s effects on birds’ sexual preference and courtship behavior have been documented, and provides a critical link between low levels of mercury contamination and impaired reproduction. The results suggest that even low levels of mercury – which is widespread in the U.S. and global environment — can result in major impairment for wild bird populations.
The study will be published online Dec. 1 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Everglades researchers began to notice high levels of mercury in many wildlife species, such as panthers, birds and fish, Frederick said. By the late 1990s, mercury levels in the Everglades had dropped dramatically, and suddenly the ibises were nesting like crazy.
Researchers believed that better hydrological conditions probably caused much of the birds’ renewed nesting enthusiasm, but something else also seemed to be at work, Frederick said – and that’s what prompted him and then-doctoral student Nilmini Jayasena to begin looking at mercury. The contaminant found its way into the Everglades via municipal and medical waste incineration, but during the 1990s, medical waste became more closely regulated and flashlight batteries that didn’t contain mercury replaced those that did.
The UF scientists built a 13,000-square-foot, net-covered aviary, and brought in 160 young ibises, which were divided into four groups made up of equal numbers of males and females.
TAVARES — Mercury emissions from Lake County's incinerator at Okahumpka must be reduced if the state follows through with planned standards for emissions.
A debate already is under way over how to do it, and there are only two choices, those involved say: Either put less mercury into the incinerator or take it out of the smoke.
Surprisingly, both opponents and proponents of the incinerator agree on what should be done. They say keep mercury out of the incinerator.
''Keeping heavy metals like mercury out of the waste stream might be the better idea,'' said County Commission Chairman Richard Swartz, a constant critic of the incinerator. ''It is going to be cheaper to eliminate the source going into the incinerator.''
Operators of the incinerator agree.
''I'd say try to get the mercury out through the waste system,'' said Steve Bass, regional director for Ogden Martin Systems, which operates the $79 million incinerator that fired up two years ago.
Bass estimates it would cost $2 million to install a mercury-scrubbing system on the incinerator, with annual operating costs of about $150,000. Taxpayers would bear the cost, and Swartz estimates it may actually cost up to $500,000 annually.
The cheaper approach, they say, is keeping batteries, fluorescent light fixtures and other objects containing mercury out of the incinerator.
A state report says incinerators are the main source of mercury pollution in Florida, although incinerator operators dispute that. The state says incinerators were responsible for a quarter of the 38,369 pounds of mercury emitted by man-made sources in 1990 in Florida.
Mercury has been detected in unhealthy concentrations in fish across the state, prompting health advisories to limit consumption. In excessive levels, mercury threatens the nervous systems of humans and animals.
The state's Environmental Regulation Commission was to have considered the new standards Thursday but postponed its meeting until Aug. 25. Those standards would require substantially lower emissions for Florida's 10 major incinerators, including Lake County's, within about five years.
The standards are based on the levels of mercury removal expected at a new incinerator being built in Lee County near Fort Myers by Ogden Martin.
The planned allowable emission level for mercury would be 70 micrograms per dry standard cubic meter, according to Larry George of the state Department of Environmental Regulation, which drew up the standards. That's a sharp decrease from the current average of about 300 micrograms.
The Lee County incinerator will use a carbon injection system on smokestacks, in which mercury attaches to the carbon and is removed. The Lee County facility will be the first in the nation to use the new technology.