In the news
The Lansing Board of Water & Light's Eckert Power Station released 123 pounds of mercury into the air last year.
Among power plants in Michigan, it was the eighth- largest producer of mercury pollution, 162nd nationwide, according to federal statistics released by Environment Michigan.
The Ann Arbor environmental organization and a number of affiliated groups in other states made a push Thursday to publicize data from the Toxics Release Inventory, a database maintained by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA is on the verge of finalizing what would be the first standard limiting mercury emissions, and some Congressional Republicans and Democrats from coal-producing states are mobilizing to delay its implementation.
Mercury is a powerful toxin that can cause severe nerve damage. It particularly is dangerous for young children, who can suffer deficits in verbal skills, attention and motor control and lower IQs.
"The bottom line is that parents in Michigan shouldn't have to worry that their kids are toxic dumping grounds for power plants," said Anika James, a federal field associate with Environment Michigan.
The EPA rule is a step in the right direction, she said, "and we can't just let these big polluters stand in the way."
BWL spokesman Mark Nixon said the utility has every intention of complying with the proposed mercury regulations, which could take effect as early as 2015.
"We have known of the potential for stricter emission regulations for many years," he said. "That has been built in to our strategy for generating power."
For example, he said, the utility is in the process of installing technology that will remove about 90 percent of the mercury emissions from its Erickson Power Plant, which last year ranked 263rd nationally. It has hired a consultant to look into achieving similar results at the Eckert plant.
And, when BWL's natural gas-fired facility in REO town comes online in 2013, "we will reduce mercury emissions by 90 percent compared to the old coal-fired steam plant," he said.
According to Environment Michigan's data, Michigan ranks 10th in the nation in the volume of mercury released by power plants.
The biggest source was the Detroit Edison Monroe Power Plant, with 660 pounds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.