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Kentucky Water Division Proposing To Remove Lower Ohio River Off Mercury Warning List

Jim Grey
Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The Kentucky Division of Water is proposing that the lower Ohio River be removed from a list of waterways with high mercury levels.

The list warns against consuming fish from those waters.

State Department of Environmental Protection Spokesman Lanny Brannock says a new testing method has provided more accurate results and shows lower than expected levels of mercury in the fish in a stretch from Louisville to the Mississippi River.

“What’s happened is there has been a recent enhanced analysis of fish collected from the Ohio River,” he said. “Those data indicate the mercury levels in the fish are lower than what we thought, and the reason for that is there are more accurate tests.”

But Judy Petersen, Executive Director of Kentucky Waterways Alliance, is skeptical of the findings since there hasn’t been efforts to decrease the amount of mercury going into the water. In fact, she is concerned there might even be an increase.

“Coal fired power plants over the last few years have been adding air pollution control equipment that is necessary to comply with Clean Air laws and what they’re now trying to do is get permission to dump the mercury that they’re taking out of the air dump it directly into the water,” Petersen said.

The water quality standard is three milligrams per kilogram of methyl-mercury. The water division’s most recent Ohio River findings are below that level.

Whitney grew up listening to Car Talk to and from her family’s beach vacation each year, but it wasn’t until a friend introduced her to This American Life that radio really grabbed her attention. She is a recent graduate from Union University in Jackson, Tenn., where she studied journalism. When she’s not at WKMS, you can find her working on her backyard compost pile and garden, getting lost on her bicycle or crocheting one massive blanket.
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