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mercury

The North Portico of the White House is seen through the fog, April 1, 2013.

The White House “systematically” delayed finalizing a host of environmental and public health safeguards for political reasons before the 2012 election, reported The Washington Post last February. With many of these rules still awaiting approvals more than a year after the election, the Post recently revisited its investigation into the politics of continued White House delays.

There is a running joke in my hometown about the glowing green fish and three-headed salamanders in Lake Julian. Nestled in the center of Arden, North Carolina, and surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, this lake was once the picturesque centerpiece of the quaint Southern town. But thanks to the pollution from Progress Energy’s nearby coal ash pond, these jokes aren’t far from the truth.

A power plant located next to a waterway.

Coal-fired power plant pollution is contaminating our water, not just our air. Here’s how: when plants install scrubbers and other emission control devices onto smokestacks to capture air pollution, the chemical waste they pull from the air is then discharged into our waterways.

Not good.

This week a Senate committee will hold a nomination hearing for Gina McCarthy to replace Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Gina McCarthy, the EPA assistant administrator for air and radiation, is a sound choice for the job. Given her background and experience, the Senate should move expeditiously to confirm her.

My favorite aunt became a dean at Michigan State back in the early 1980’s. She was a role model for us all, assuming a level of power and influence that most women—especially African American women—had not been able access at that time. She, like many other students and faculty at the time, enjoyed the campus and resources it provided. But what she didn’t know was that the water that she drank, bathed in and used for cooking and cleaning and cleaning, may have been poisoned by toxic coal ash.

Even in today’s divided political climate, taking a stance against mercury and arsenic in our air does not seem like it should be controversial. The gasses, along with other known toxics like chromium, cadmium and selenium are among 84 known air pollutants emitted every year by coal and oil fired power plants.

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