DEQ orders utilities to reduce mercury emissions

LANSING, MI – Coal-fired power plants in Michigan have six years to reduce their mercury emissions by 90%. The state Department of Environmental Quality adopted that rule Monday.

Mercury is a toxic metal that can affect IQ and motor skills, especially in young children. It is emitted into the air by factories and power plants and settles into water and the ground. Michigan issues advisories warning that young children and women of childbearing age should not eat fish and some wildlife because of mercury levels.

Coal-fired power plants are the number one source of mercury emissions. But cement plants and chemical factories also emit a lot of mercury, and they are not covered by the new rule.

Michigan is the 19th state to regulate mercury emissions from coal plants. Utilities and environmental groups say they hope the federal government will soon step in with a rule that applies a uniform standard for mercury emissions nationwide.