PENNSYLVANIA Mercury levels are too high in state's fish



Shenango River Reservoir in Mercer County was among the lakes sampled.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Fish in Pennsylvania's lakes are contaminated with mercury, and the Bush administration should act faster to reduce mercury emissions from power plants, an environmental group said Tuesday.
PennEnvironment said 45 percent of fish sampled from the state's lakes exceeded safe levels for women of average weight who eat two fish meals a week. The nationwide average was 55 percent. Also, the report said that, nationwide, 76 percent of fish exceeded safe levels for children under 3.
Mercury in fish can pose a hazard for children and for women who are pregnant or nursing.
The environmental group analyzed data collected between 1999 and 2001 from the federal Environmental Protection Agency's ongoing study of chemical residue in lake fish from 260 lakes and reservoirs. It looked at findings based on early data from the four-year study.
The group found that 90 percent of walleye, 81 percent of largemouth bass and 78 percent of smallmouth bass sampled in Pennsylvania exceeded the safe level for women. The fish came from Whitney Lake in Wayne County, Pike Lake No. 3 in Pike County, Crooked Creek Lake in Armstrong County, the Shenango River Reservoir in Mercer County and unnamed ponds in Bradford and Franklin counties.
Pennsylvania ranks No. 3 behind Texas and Ohio for the amount of mercury and mercury compounds released from power plants.
Bush's plan
The Bush administration has proposed regulating mercury in a way similar to other pollutants. A plan under consideration would set nationwide limits on pollution below current levels and allow plants unable to reduce their share to pay for cuts by other plants that do more than required. It also envisions cutting mercury emissions by 70 percent by 2018.
Bush "is putting off for at least 10 years what they should do today," Sudha Nandagopal, PennEnvironment's citizen outreach coordinator, said at a news conference in Pittsburgh.
PennEnvironment recommends that the EPA require coal-fired power plants to reduce mercury emissions by at least 90 percent by 2008. Cynthia Bergman, an EPA press secretary, said no technology exists to achieve that.
In June, Pennsylvania and 10 other states announced opposition to the plan. EPA administrator Mike Leavitt has promised to re-examine it.

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