Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia occupied the top four spots in a list that ranked mercury emissions by state, according to a feature on Bloomberg Businessweek.
In a report released Wednesday by Environment America, the aforementioned states led the nation in mercury emissions, which carries with it associated impacts to the environment and human health. Group spokeswoman Lauren Randall said that their findings were based on the Toxics Release Inventory, which contains pollution data provided by power companies annually to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Environment America attributed West Virginia’s fourth-place ranking in the list to the mercury emissions from the state’s coal-fired power plants. The state is the second-largest coal-producing state in the country, and a significant portion of the coal that is produced is used to generate electricity, through coal-fired power plants. According to Environment America, Dominion’s Mount Storm power station is ranked 9th of the Top 10 power plants that emit the most mercury.
In 2009, the 12 coal-fired power plants in West Virginia released 6,795 pounds of mercury.
Dan Genest, spokesman for Dominion Resources Inc., said, however, that the Mount Storm power plant complies with state and federal regulations, and that it complies with any new regulations that are released.
The burning of coal releases mercury into the air, and this released mercury can eventually settle out of air into rivers and lakes. It can be ingested by humans through fish caught from mercury-contaminated waters. Large doses of mercury can lead to brain damage, as well as damage to other vital organs.