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Tennessee Water Sentinels

Mercury Pollution in Tennessee: An Important First Step Has Been Taken

It cannot be seen drifting from smokestacks, nor can it been smelled or tasted. However, mercury pollution is out there. The Tennessee Water Sentinels have used the Right-To-Know Network, an independent pollution information database to learn that in 2007, 20 facilities in Tennessee released 3,058 pounds of mercury to the air, and 84 pounds to various lakes and rivers in Tennessee. This is an improvement from the over 3,800 pounds discharged to the air in 2005, but more progress is needed to remove this dangerous toxin from the environment.

On April 26, 2007, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) issued a press release stating the agency made additions to its list of rivers and lakes with precautionary fish consumption advisories as a result of the trigger point for issuing a mercury advisory being lowered to 0.3 parts per million (ppm). The details about these advisories can be found at the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation website.

Tennessee Water Sentinels applauds TDEC for this important first step in protecting public health. The next two steps are even more important:

Map the known sources of mercury pollution across Tennessee; study the prevailing wind patterns; update the testing of fish tissues from lakes, rivers, and streams that may be in the fallout zone from these sources; and make the determination as to whether more advisories are needed. In this study, consider those sources of mercury in other states - but are fairly close to Tennessee's borders. Airborne and waterborne mercury from other states does not stop at Tennessee's borders.

Strictly regulate the amount of mercury discharged from facilities across Tennessee, with the goal being zero discharge of mercury to Tennessee's environment. TDEC needs to work with EPA and neighboring states to strictly regulate discharges in neighboring states as well.

The Tennessee Water Sentinels wants the anglers that inject so much money into Tennessee's economy to be able to catch fish on any stream in Tennessee without having to worry that eating those fish will expose them or their families to dangerous contaminants. More on mercury.


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