Officials in Maine and six other Northeastern states are hoping a never-before-used provision of the Clean Water Act will force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to control mercury emissions from power plants outside the region.
David Littell, commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, said Tuesday that the provision, which requires the EPA to craft agreements to resolve multistate pollution issues, triggers a mandatory process for the EPA to control the atmospheric deposition of mercury that makes fish throughout the Northeast unsafe to eat.
"We've filed scientifically rigorous cleanup plans that have been endorsed by the EPA, but there is still no credible work to make our fish safe to eat," Littell said. "This petition is another avenue to keep dirty power plants' feet to the fire."
The six New England states joined New York in filing the petition, which cites a section of the Clean Water Act that requires the EPA administrator to respond by convening a management conference that includes all the states that are a significant source of the mercury in Northeast waters.
The provision further requires the EPA to develop an agreement to reduce pollution levels and improve water quality in New England and New York.
The Northeast has more than 10,000 lakes, ponds and reservoirs, and more than 46,000 miles of river where fish are unsafe to eat because of atmospheric mercury contamination, according to regional officials.