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Mining Spews Mercury On America

Yesterday, the Environmental Protection Agency released a report on the trends in pollution from 2006 to 2007. It’s a mixed bag, with some reductions and some increases. One trend I noticed is in the source of pollutants in the United States. Mining appears to be playing an increasing role, perhaps due to the loosening of standards under George W. Bush.

Consider mercury, for example. Air emissions of mercury went down by three percent from 2006 to 2007. Total releases of mercury, however, increased 38 percent during that time, and most of that increase was due to mining activities. Release of other toxic heavy metals, such as lead, also increased. The increase of lead was, as well, due to mining.

Mercury and lead are among the pollutants that are released when coal companies dump their wastes in mountain streams and rivers. H.R. 1310, the Clean Water Protection Act, introduced by Representative Frank Pallone, would end that practice. Let’s hope that this year brings a passage of that bill, which would help to put an end to the national trauma that is mountaintop removal coal mining.

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