Monday, October 19, 2009

Lawmakers Address Mercury Exposure

Assemblyman Robert K. Sweeney, D-Lindenhurst, lead a public hearing on mercury exposure in New York state, with Assembly members Ellen C. Jaffee, D-Suffern, and Brian P. Kavanagh, D-Manhattan, attending.

Better managing of mercury related hazardous waste and trying to phase out the use of mercury where possible are two goals of those who testified. Another key point was mercury emissions from coal-burning power plants and incinerators that release mercury into the atmosphere. Once mercury enters the atmosphere it can accumulate in large bodies of water and soil.

One factor is mercury emissions from other states’ industrial facilities travel downwind and account for a large amount of mercury pollution in New York state, said Hydrologist for United States Geological Survey Douglas Burns. Mercury emissions generated in New York account for about 20 percent of the total emissions in the state.

Elyse Kunz, director of Community Advocates for Safe Emissions, is concerned about the toxic substances coming out of the Lafarge cement facility in Ravena, Albany. She stated that the EPA in 2007 ranked Lafarge the fourth dirtiest cement kiln in the nation.

“I ask you today, please protect our community,” pleaded Kunz. “Protect the common good from avoidable health hazards and ensure that we have clear air to breath. Enact regulations to significantly reduce the hazardous pollutants from cement plants and other like it in the most stringent manner possible.”

A call to Lafarge North America was not returned at the time of this post.

UPDATE 10/21/09:
John Regan, environmental manager from Lafarge's Ravena plant said, "Our plant is strictly regulated by New York state DEC and we comply to all their laws and regulations.

“We tend to rely on the experts about issues like this," continued Regan. "We comply with the regulations, which are among the most stringent regulations in the world."

Regan cited the United States Environmental Protection Agency's nationwide data from 2007 that ranks Lafarge's Ravena plant 404th, and not the fourth as some critics have said, out of the 1,607 industrial facilities in pounds of mercury released.

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