The Water Environment Federation (WEF) will present two congressional briefings addressing mercury contamination in the U.S. and its proposed solutions. The first briefing is scheduled for February 28, 2003 in Room 340 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building and the follow-up briefing will be held on March 7, 2003. Details of the second briefing will be available at a later date.
Co-sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, the Northeast Midwest Congressional Coalition, and in cooperation with the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program, the first briefing will feature a discussion by USGS Research Scientist Dr. David Krabbenhoft who will explain the latest scientific information about mercury contamination, its sources of release, deposits, the likelihood of deposits transforming into highly toxic methylmercury, and its effects on humans and wildlife. Steve Wordelman (Jones and Henry Engineers, Ltd.), Chair of WEF's Government Affairs Committee, will moderate and provide local perspectives on the issue.
Mercury is the leading cause of impairment in U.S. lakes and estuaries as established by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) National Water Quality Inventory for 2002. Forty-nine states issued 2, 618 fish advisories for mercury in 2001. In light of this information about the increasingly serious extent of mercury contamination in the nation's waters and in the food chain, several national policy options are being considered to reduce the release of mercury into the environment. The Administration has proposed its Clear Skies approach for limiting mercury emissions from power plants, the so-called "Four-Pollutant Bill" would limit emissions to an even greater degree. The EPA is planning to issue a proposed rule to regulate mercury emissions from power plants on December 15, 2003 and issue a final rule a year later.