Mercury in North Carolina

Information about mercury exposure in North Carolina (summarized from DENR website).


Mercury Bioaccumulation



Based on Centers for Disease Control data, the North Carolina Dept of Health and Human Services recently estimated that “at least 13,677 children per year” are born in NC with blood mercury levels that place them at risk for lifelong learning disabilities, fine motor and attention deficits, and lowered IQ.  Mercury is emitted from a wide variety of natural and man-made sources. Generally, man-made releases of mercury result from two types of activities: combustion of coal, waste or other contaminated fuels, or production processes that involve the use of mercury. Information is provided below on the fifty largest reported sources of mercury emissions to the air in North Carolina. N.C. DENR generated these estimates using the most up-to-date information available, which for most sources was 1999 emissions data.

The majority of mercury emissions nationally and in North Carolina arise from coal-fired power plants. Recently, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) embarked on an ambitious plan to require mercury testing in coal and stack emissions for many of the nation's largest coal-fired electric utility boilers. This Information Collection Request (ICR) was able to provide much more detailed and accurate information on mercury content in coal and the effectiveness of existing control technologies at removing mercury from the waste stream. The 1999 ICR estimates for mercury emissions from North Carolina coal-fired electric utility boilers are substantially lower than previous estimates from state emissions inventories. This is likely a reflection of more accurate testing data rather than improvements in mercury emissions or controls.

Duke Energy is currently planning to construct a large new coal-fired powerplant at its Cliffside facility near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina. This powerplant will be a significant new source of mercury pollution in the Catawba basin.  For more information about the proposed Cliffside powerplant, click here.

Several other major sources of mercury emissions in North Carolina have either eliminated mercury-generating processes or reduced emissions through application of controls. For example, over the past three years several medical waste incinerators have ceased operations or added controls to reduce mercury emissions. These developments will continue to reduce mercury emissions in North Carolina and associated impacts on local and global air and water quality.

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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
Dec 13, 2016 Community Foundation of Gaston County grants $5,000 to CRF for Riverkeeper Program
The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
Sep 27, 2016 Lake Wateree Fall Cleanup a Sweeping Success
86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
Jun 13, 2016 Dozens of Youth Reached in Water Education Outreach Program Pilot Lessons
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Tell your Riverkeeper if you see:

  • Sewage Overflows
  • Failure to control sediment from construction sites
  • Illegal clearing of buffer areas
  • Fish kills 
  • Unpermitted discharges
  • Other issues that concern you

Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a proud member of EarthShare North Carolina, the North Carolina Conservation Network, River Network and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  It also in in an alliance with Clean Air Carolina to address issues, such as sprawl, that cause air and water problems.

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