New Air Quality Standards Could Improve CO's Lakes, Rivers

12-22-2011 // Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO

This excerpt is from Public News Service - CO

Coal-fired power plants will soon need to meet tough new standards designed to improve air quality. The standards were announced Wednesday by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They will require utilities to install devices known as "scrubbers" in coal-fired power plants over the next four years, which will reduce pollutants such as mercury, arsenic and acid gases.

David Ellenberger, Rocky Mountain regional coordinator with the National Wildlife Federation, says the scrubbers will reduce mercury pollution by at least 91 percent. He adds that cleaner air translates into cleaner water for Colorado's lakes and rivers.

"It's absolutely a huge step forward in protecting public health, our children and our wildlife from these aspects of this hazardous air pollution."

High levels of mercury can cause birth defects, respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Ellenberger says 24 of Colorado's lakes currently have unsafe levels of mercury because of coal-fired air pollution.

Salida-area angling guide Bill Dvorak says mercury's poisoning effects only begin in Colorado's alpine lakes.

"Primarily, it affects fish, but then everything that eats the fish is affected, and then everything that eats the thing that eats the fish. So it works its way through the entire food chain."

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