Help Keep Mercury Out of Our Waters! - Waterkeeper

Help Keep Mercury Out of Our Waters!

By: Thomas Hynes

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing a rule reaffirming that enforcing Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) from power plants is both necessary and appropriate. Maintaining this crucial regulatory function will help protect communities from mercury contamination and the many negative health effects therefrom. 

The previous administration stopped just short of scrapping these protections altogether in 2020. However, EPA is currently accepting comments on their proposal to reverse that 2020 ruling, which would strengthen the Agency’s ability to do their job protecting Americans from hazardous contaminants, like mercury. 

Join us in encouraging EPA to reaffirm the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) rule by fully regulating coal- and oil-fired power plants’ emission of highly toxic mercury into the ecosystem.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin. High levels of exposure can damage the kidneys, liver, and immune system. Mercury is particularly harmful to pregnant women. Power plants, including coal-powered plants, are the primary source of mercury contamination. When airborne mercury falls out of the air, it often ends up in the water. From there it makes its way into the food chain. Mercury is also very persistent, so it remains in the ecosystem. Larger animals, like say tuna, can accumulate dangerous levels of mercury, which in turn endangers people who eat fish on a regular basis. 

Thankfully, in 2012, EPA finalized the first ever standards requiring coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions. These Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) worked. Mercury emissions from power plants fell 86 percent from 2010-2017. Each year, thousands of premature deaths were averted, as were thousands of heart attacks and asthma attacks

Despite the overwhelming success of these regulations, the previous administration sought to undo these standards in 2020. According to their narrow calculations, the benefits of regulating mercury were not worth the costs of compliance. Had this cost determination been finalized, it would have not only made countless Americans vulnerable to mercury poisoning, it would have also weakened EPA’s ability to do its job across the board. 

It’s ridiculous that EPA should lose its ability to do its job protecting Americans, especially considering how well the MATS rule was working to reduce mercury emissions. 

Now is the opportunity to right this wrong. Leave your comment today and let EPA know they must strictly regulate mercury emissions. The health of our waterways, communities, and children demands it. 

Your support can help encourage EPA to strengthen Mercury and Air Toxic Standards. Leave your comment today in support of these urgently needed regulations.