Mercury at Bottom of Central Park Lake Linked to Coal Burning in NYC
Troy, N.Y. — While the debate rages over the future of the
nation’s energy resources, including the potential increase in
the number of coal-burning power plants, researchers at
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have linked coal plant
emissions to toxic levels of mercury.
Their study shows that the level of mercury in sediment at the
bottom of New York’s Central Park Lake is at least 10 times the
amount found in some industrial areas.
“The atmospheric input of mercury to the sediments is the
highest I have ever seen. We know mercury is toxic, and we know
it accumulates over time. The question is, is this acceptable?”
said Richard Bopp, associate professor of earth and
environmental sciences at Rensselaer and a leading authority on
PCBs and other pollutants in the Hudson River, New York Harbor,
Bopp’s findings are especially significant in light of this
year’s power shortages in California and the ensuing
controversy over coal-burning power plants. A recent report by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicted that the
emission of hazardous air pollutants by coal-fired utilities
would increase 10 percent to 30 percent by the year 2010.
Bopp’s team studied core samples of lake sediment dating back
to the 1860s. After consulting historical records of coal
consumption in the city, Bopp concluded that domestic
coal-fired stoves and furnaces, industrial fuel use, and
coal-burning power plants left much of the toxic residue.
Contact: Megan Galbraith
Phone: (518) 276-6531