Tighter Rules for Power Plant Discharge

Monday, October 5, 2015 @ 04:10 PM gHale

There are new standards for mercury, lead and other toxic pollutants that can discharge into the nation’s rivers and streams from steam electric power plants.

If exposed at high levels, the pollutants can cause neurological damage in children, lead to cancer and damage the circulatory system, kidneys and livers.

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The new rules, the first national limits on pollutants from coal-fired steam electricity plants, “will provide significant protections for our children and communities across the country, including minority and low-income communities, from exposure to pollutants that can cause … serious health problems,” said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy.

The rule will remove 1.4 billion pounds a year of toxic metals discharged nationwide, including mercury, arsenic, lead and selenium, the EPA said.

The EPA said most of the nation’s 1,080 steam electric power plants already meet the requirements. About 12 percent, or 134 plants, will have to make new investments to meet the new rules.

More than 23,000 miles of rivers and streams across the country end up polluted by steam electric discharges, which occur close to 100 public drinking water intakes and nearly 2,000 public wells across the nation, the EPA said.

Toxic metals do not break down in the environment and can contaminate sediment in waterways and harm aquatic life and wildlife, including killing large numbers of fish. Steam electric power plants account for about 30 percent of all toxic pollutants discharged into streams, rivers and lakes from U.S. industrial facilities.