FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 15, 2005) – Kentucky is increasing state monitoring of mercury emissions and taking steps to inform the public when health precautions are advisable due to mercury contamination.
The Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet’s (EPPC’s) Department for Environmental Protection worked in conjunction with two other agencies – the Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources – to issue a fish consumption notice in 2000 because the levels of mercury found in samples of fish from Kentucky waters exceeded federal and state standards. The advisory, which remains in effect, recommends that women of child bearing age and children 6 years old and under refrain from eating more than one meal per week of freshwater Kentucky fish.
The EPPC’s Division for Air Quality currently operates a network of more than 100 monitors in 29 counties. In the last three months the division expanded the network with the addition of four new monitors that can sample ambient air continuously and measure mercury vapor.
In addition, three of Governor Fletcher’s cabinets formed a Mercury Task Force in October 2004 and have been meeting regularly. The task force is identifying current state activity related to mercury contamination prevention, as well as several new, near-term activities to reduce mercury contamination and increase public awareness and education about potential health risks of mercury in the environment. Cabinets involved include the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Commerce Cabinet and EPPC.
The EPPC has requested an opportunity to present the task force report, currently in draft, at the next meeting of the state’s Environmental Quality Commission.
A new federal mercury regulation, announced today by the U S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is under review by EPPC.
“The cabinet is reviewing this new federal standard, the first to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired electric generating units. We need to do everything we can to reduce mercury contamination in the environment, especially where children are at risk,” LaJuana S. Wilcher, secretary of the EPPC, said.