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Governor McGreevey Announces Dedication of $550K for Toxic Contaminants Study of NJ's Fish


Measure Builds On Administration's Actions To

Reduce Mercury and Other Toxins




TRENTON-Governor James E. McGreevey today announced that New Jersey is dedicating $500,000 to test the level of toxic contaminants including mercury, dioxin and PCBs in fish residing in New Jersey's coastal waters and back bays.



"The data the State will gather from the fish will be critical to public safety," said Governor McGreevey. "Individuals who consume fish have the right to make informed choices about the health risks they may be facing. Whether studying toxic contaminants in fish or implementing new restrictions on mercury emissions from power plants, my Administration always puts the health of New Jersey's families first."



The results of the sampling program will be used by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to revise its fish consumption advisories. The advisories apply to everyone, with specific advice for pregnant woman, nursing mothers and young children who are the most susceptible to the hazardous effects of mercury and other toxic substances in fish.



"For too long, fish consumption advisories and other public health and environmental standards have been based on old or inadequate data," said DEP Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell. "This study will ensure that protections are up-to-date, and will measure New Jersey's progress in reducing toxics in our waters."



While the scope of the study encompasses all coastal regions of the state, a separate stand-alone investigation will focus on the Passaic River, Newark Bay and Raritan Bay, complexes, which are particularly prone to toxic contamination. The Department will conduct additional sampling in these areas. Both the DEP and the Department of Health and Senior Services have issued public consumption advisories due to mercury, dioxin and PCB contamination in fish, and have issued an advisory against eating any fish or shellfish from the Passaic River. Harvesting or eating blue crabs is prohibited from the Passaic River and the Newark Bay complex, which includes Newark Bay, the tidal Hackensack River, Arthur Kill and Kill Van Kull.



"Every year, 600,000 children are needlessly born with high levels of mercury that cause a variety of physical and mental challenges," said Elizabeth Sword, the Executive Director of the Children's Health Environmental Coalition. "It is our ethical obligation to ensure that all children have as healthy a start as possible. This study is one critical step towards reaching that goal."



In late 2003, the McGreevey Administration directed companies responsible for pollution in the Passaic River to identify natural resource damages and initiate restoration efforts. Restoration efforts in the Passaic River are focused on regaining the ecological value and reestablishing the economic services that this region provided prior to being injured.



In addition, Governor McGreevey, recognizing that there is greater reliance on subsistence fishing among communities of color and low-income communities, has directed DEP and other state agencies to develop education programs and public information services for those communities that consume fish taken from contaminated areas. This directive was one element of an Executive Order issued by the Governor on February 18, 2004, which called for state government to consider environmental health impacts on underserved communities of color and low-income communities.



As a follow-up to Governor McGreevey's directive, DEP, the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Agriculture will be conducting outreach meetings on April 20, 21,22 and 27, 2004 at various locations throughout the State, inviting anglers and community members to learn about the fish tissue study, the importance of fish advisories and the health effects associated with eating contaminated fish.



The $500,000 study calls for sampling to take place in late summer to early fall 2004 to allow for the capture of fish and shellfish in marine and estuarine waters. Laboratory preparation and analysis will take six months following the collection of samples with preliminary data available in May 2005. A final report will be published by October 2005.



Every year, four percent of New Jersey's corporate tax revenue is allocated to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). This year, the Department dedicated $500,000 of its allocation to assess waterways in New Jersey where fish are contaminated due to the bioaccumulation of mercury, PCBs and dioxin.



In response to the Bush Administration weakening public health protections from mercury exposure, Governor McGreevey has also urged President Bush to look to New Jersey's strong efforts to reduce mercury levels when reconsidering the federal emissions proposals. The current Bush Administration proposal would stall significant mercury reductions for 15 years, and even then allow two to three times more mercury emissions than federal law allows.



Recognizing that there is no responsibility more important than protecting New Jersey's families from toxic pollutants, Governor McGreevey has reestablished the State as a national leader in environmental protection. Earlier this year, the Governor outlined key components for reducing mercury emissions during his State of the State address in January.



The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) recently lauded the Governor's plan as the example the Bush Administration should follow in order to protect public health. NYSA stated, "If New Jersey's rules were enacted nationally, annual mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants alone would decline from approximately 48 tons to about five tons. And hundreds of thousands of children would be spared the needless suffering caused by exposure to mercury."



The key components of Governor McGreevey's plan to protect individuals from mercury are listed below:



* NJ's 10 coal-fired boilers will have four years to begin keeping 90% of the mercury in coal from being emitted into the air or meet a strict regulatory limit that achieves comparable reductions. Every plant will have to reduce emissions. A company that commits to substantially reducing air pollution that causes smog, soot, and acid rain as well as mercury will earn an additional five years to comply.

* Municipal solid waste incinerators must either reduce emissions by 95% below 1990 levels within seven years through improvements in air pollution control systems or reduce mercury in solid waste.

* Iron and steel scrap-melters have five years to remove mercury from the scrap metal or add mercury removing air pollution control to their furnaces, to achieve at least a 75% mercury reduction. This would be the first statewide emission limit for mercury emitted by iron and steel melters in the nation.



To learn more about the Department of Environmental Protection's program to monitor toxics in fish, please visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/draft-workplan.htm



To learn more about the fish advisory outreach meetings, please visit: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/dsr/njmainfish.htm
 
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