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Mercury problem is local

Modified: June 14, 2013 at 4:20 pm •  Published: June 15, 2013

Regarding “DEQ issues warning about fish from 32 lakes” (Sports, June 9): Oklahomans have been made aware of the serious issue of high levels of mercury being found in some lakes. Many Oklahomans regularly consume the fish found in these lakes; as a result, they could face damage to the brain or nervous system. Although it may be easiest to declare that this is more of a global issue and to blame it on “things going on in China and India,” it's actually a local environmental issue that stems directly from coal-fired power plants. They're the largest single source of unregulated mercury pollution in the United States, emitting approximately 48 tons of toxic mercury each year. After being released into the air, this mercury rains down into our lakes and streams and is then converted into the most toxic form, methylmercury, by aquatic organisms consumed by fish.

Oklahoma has six coal-fired power plants — which is six too many. Fortunately, the EPA has recently announced standards to limit mercury, acid gases and other toxic pollution from power plants. But solely having limitations may not be enough to control our current mercury problem. This is an urgent dilemma that won't simply disappear overnight.

Emily Day, Norman