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