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GLIN==> New Report Shows Alarming Levels of Mercury in Cleveland Rain

Posted on behalf of Jordan Lubetkin (lubetkin@nwf.org)

New Report Shows Alarming Levels of Mercury in Cleveland Rain

Zoe Lipman - NWF -  (734)516-9616
Mike Murray - NWF -   (734)769-3351 x29
Stuart Greenberg - EHW - (216) 961-4646

New Report Shows Alarming Levels of Mercury in Rain Falling on Cleveland

Ohio rain shows some of the highest levels in the Midwest

Cleveland, OH - Rain falling in Cleveland contains mercury levels up to 31
times higher than the mercury levels EPA considers safe in the waters of the
Great Lakes, jeopardizing the health of people and wildlife, according to a
new report issued today by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The
average levels observed were 8 times the EPA standard - the highest average
level NWF has observed anywhere in the Midwest.

"These results completely reverse what we think about rain," said Zoe
Lipman, of NWF's Great Lakes Office. "The monitoring we've done in Cleveland
shows levels of mercury in rain that far exceed what EPA considers to be
safe in the waters of Lake Erie.  So instead of cleaning Lake Erie, the rain
is contaminating it."

The pollution in rain comes from mercury air pollution from coal-fired power
plants and other industries.

"In order to protect our health, the health of the Great Lakes, and the
health of Ohio's fishing and tourism industries, all of which depend upon
clean water, we need to phase out mercury pollution. Fortunately, ending
mercury pollution is something we know how to do, but we need to act now."

"This report underscores how serious a problem mercury pollution is for
residents of the Ohio, and those across the Midwest," said Stuart Greenberg
of Cleveland-based Environmental Health Watch, "We have to go beyond warning
people about mercury.   Ohio needs to implement a comprehensive mercury
phaseout. Enacting legislation that substantially lowers the amount of
mercury industry can emit is a critical step toward our goal. We also need
to phase out the manufacture and use of mercury containing products. To
protect the health of our state and our citizens, we must do better."

"Mercury has a grave impact on the health of our rivers and streams," said
Larry Mitchell, President of the League of Ohio Sportsmen.  "Mercury
contamination in Ohio is so widespread that the state has issued a fish
advisory warning people to limit their consumption of sport fish from any
water body in the state to no more than one meal a week. Just this year, the
Ohio EPA added numerous new rivers and lakes to its list of waterways where
the fish should be eaten no more once a month or once every two months.
Over a million Ohioans fish and they contribute $762 million to the state's
economy every year.  We shouldn't have to tell our kids they have to throw
the big fish back - we want to end the mercury threat to our fisheries and
our families."

The monitoring research sponsored by NWF measured mercury concentration in
rain samples collected between October 21 and December 11, 2003 in
Cleveland.  The average level of mercury in the samples was nearly 8 times
the EPA safe level for surface waters.  The highest level was 31 times the
EPA standard and even the lowest level measured was nearly double the
standard.   The research follows sampling done by NWF (and others) in
Minnesota, Michigan Wisconsin, and Illinois - all showing elevated mercury

"This is the first mercury in rain data to be reported for Ohio, and I was
shocked to find such high mercury levels, right here in our neighborhood",
said Chris Trepal, of the Earth Day Coalition. "Many people in this
community go fishing ,and rely on fish as an important part of their diet
and their culture.  People are concerned when they hear about the fish
consumption advisories, but even more concerned that we are not taking all
the steps we can to solve the problem at the source."

 "Mercury is a dangerous toxin," said Jennifer Lenhart of the Sierra Club.
"Drawing on the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control, EPA
researchers recently calculated that one in six American women of
childbearing age has mercury levels in their blood above the levels
considered safe for the developing fetus. This means approximately 24,000
babies in Ohio are born every year at risk of neurological damage due to
mercury exposure.  As an expectant mom, I find these statistics very
worrying.  We know what needs to be done to clean up mercury pollution in
Ohio and nationwide, and we need to do it -  not just to protect our
children, but to protect the Great Lakes,  so that our kids will have a
different story to tell their children."

 "Coal-fired power plants are the number one source of mercury air emissions
in Ohio and in the US," Lipman added. "To protect people and wildlife, the
state needs to make sure that the best modern pollution control equipment is
used and make greater efforts to support clean energy sources and energy
conservation measures.  Ohio is one of the leaders in developing and testing
the technology needed to meet the mercury reduction challenge - so in Ohio,
strong mercury rules are not just good for the environment and public
health, they're good for our economy."

"Current federal proposals to limit mercury from coal plants do not go
nearly far enough," said Marnie Urso of the League of Conservation Voters
Education Fund.  "Instead of the strong 90% controls required of other
emitting industries, the USEPA proposals would let plants continue to emit
high levels of mercury for decades to come.  The rule would also allow
individual plants to have ongoing high emissions (and contribute to local
mercury 'hotspots') - in return for reductions taken elsewhere."

"This proposal is a very bad deal for states like Ohio which have many
plants located right in our communities and on our lakes and rivers,"
continued David Wright, of the Shaker Lakes Nature Center.  "Ohioans need to
let the US EPA and their leaders know that they want to see the Federal
Government to set much more stringent mercury emissions limits for power
plants.  Strong federal mercury control requirements nationally will make it
easier for Ohio to achieve the level of mercury reduction in this state
necessary to protect the public health and our environment."

Wright continued, "Mercury levels in rain are not dangerous to those who
drink rainwater or get it on their skin; the harm occurs when mercury
becomes increasingly concentrated as it moves up the food chain in the fish
people and wildlife eat.  Ohio is an important part of the unique Great
Lakes Ecosystem, and eliminating mercury pollution is a step we can and
should take to protect this resource for future generations."

Through its Clean the Rain Campaign, NWF works with coalitions of
organizations - like the Northeast Ohio Mercury Collaborative - to advocate
for phaseouts of mercury pollution at a state and federal level.

Protecting wildlife through education and action since 1936, the National
Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization creating
solutions that balance the needs of people and wildlife now and for future

 Jordan Lubetkin

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