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NEIWPCC’s Card and King Receive EPA Environmental Merit Awards

April 22, 2009, Faneuil Hall, Boston

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Award recipients Susy King (left) and Beth Card with NEIWPCC Executive Director Ron Poltak at the EPA Environmental Merit Awards ceremony in Boston, April 22, 2009

At a ceremony in Boston’s Faneuil Hall on April 22, 2009, NEIWPCC Director of Water Quality Programs Beth Card and NEIWPCC Environmental Analyst Susy King received 2009 Environmental Merit Awards from EPA New England for their work in developing the Northeast Regional Mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Given out by EPA since 1970, the merit awards honor individuals and groups who have shown particular ingenuity and commitment in their efforts to preserve the region's environment. Card and King were among this year’s 31 award winners, who were chosen from 49 nominations from across New England.

“It is tremendously gratifying to receive this award, and we are very honored,” Card said. “But this was a true team effort, and we share the award with all of our partners in the states who worked right alongside us in developing the TMDL.”

The Clean Water Act requires that states develop TMDLs, which specify the maximum amount of a pollutant a water body can receive and still meet its water quality standards, for all impaired waters. In the Northeast, more than 10,000 lakes, ponds, and reservoirs, and over 46,000 river miles are impaired for fish consumption due to mercury pollution, so there was no question a TMDL was required. But a mercury TMDL covering an entire region and multiple states was something new. The TMDL also had to address the fact that a vast majority of mercury in the region’s surface waters can be attributed to atmospheric deposition—that is, when mercury emitted into the air by sources such as coal-fired power plants falls directly into surface waters or enters them via stormwater runoff—and that a significant portion of the deposited mercury comes from sources outside the region.

Using the Minnesota Statewide Mercury TMDL as a model, Card and King collaborated with NEIWPCC’s member states to craft a plan calling for significant regional mercury reductions to be achieved in part by the states continuing on their successful in-state mercury reduction programs. The TMDL also spelled out a plan for reducing the mercury from sources outside the region. As a first step, it asked EPA to enact a rule requiring 90 percent mercury control from all coal-fired power plants. The states officially submitted the Northeast Regional Mercury TMDL to EPA in late October 2007. Less than two months later, EPA approved the plan.

“Beth and Susy recognized that little was being done to control out-of-region upwind sources of mercury,” said EPA New England’s Roger Janson, who nominated Card and King for the award and introduced them at the ceremony. “They not only took on and successfully completed the development of a regional TMDL to address the mercury deposition, they did it in a cost-effective manner.”

Since the approval of the TMDL, Card and King have focused on its implementation—and that has led to another high-profile action, this one invoking Section 319(g) of the Clean Water Act. The section stipulates that if a state determines its waters are being impaired in part by nonpoint source pollution from other states, the affected state may petition EPA to convene a conference of the states contributing the pollution, with the goal being to craft a deal to reduce the pollution. Working closely with our states and legal counsel, Card and King developed the 319(g) petition, which was sent to EPA on October 28, 2008.

“The TMDL was a pivotal first step toward further reducing mercury in our region’s waters, and we are thrilled that EPA recognized the effort with this merit award,” King said. “But there is still plenty of work to do. We look forward to continuing to work with our state and federal partners on moving ahead with the 319(g) management conference.”

NEIWPCC Executive Director Ron Poltak praised the accomplishments of Card and King. “What they have achieved on the mercury issue could not have been done without an extraordinary amount of commitment and plain old hard work,” Poltak said. “It is a privilege to have them on our staff and working for our region.”

At the ceremony, Executive Director Poltak also had the honor of introducing former EPA New England Regional Administrator Robert Varney, who received an EPA Lifetime Achievement Award.

For more information on the mercury problem and NEIWPCC’s efforts to find solutions, visit www.neiwpcc.org/mercury.

 

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