Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Air pollutions control policies effective in improving downwind air quality

09.12.2015

Emissions controls on coal-fired power plants are making a difference in reducing exposure of mercury to people, especially in the western Maryland community. A study of air quality from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found that levels of mercury in the air from power plant emissions dropped more than half over a 10-year period, coinciding with stricter pollution controls.

"I was surprised when I first saw it," said the study's author Mark Castro, associate professor with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory in Frostburg. "We've been measuring mercury for years. To see such a dramatic drop was exciting."


Emissions controls on coal-fired power plants are making a difference in reducing exposure of mercury to people.

Credit: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science/Cheryl Nemazie

From 2006 to 2014, researchers monitored the atmospheric concentrations of mercury at a relatively pristine location in western Maryland that was also downwind from several power plants in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. The annual average concentrations of mercury declined by up to 75% and were strongly correlated with the power plant emissions from the upwind states.

Mercury is a serious threat to human health throughout the world. Many people, particularly pregnant women and their fetuses, and young children, are highly susceptible to the neurological effects. Important sources of mercury in the United States have been power plants and waste incinerators. Some regions in the U.S., particularly those downwind of large sources of mercury, receive 60-80% of their atmospheric mercury deposition from these man-made sources.

In 2005, the EPA issued the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) to reduce mercury emissions from power plants, and in 2011, the EPA issued the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) to reduce mercury emissions by 90% upon full compliance in April 2016. (Note: Recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that MATS needs to be reexamined by the D.C. Circuit Court.)

Maryland, with one of the most aggressive power plant control programs in the nation, has in place regulations such as the Healthy Air Act that require significant reductions in mercury from coal burning power plants. The Healthy Air Act required an 80 percent reduction in mercury in 2010 and a 90 percent reduction by 2013.

The purpose of the study was to determine if power plant emission reductions have affected the atmospheric concentrations of mercury entering western Maryland before being transported to population centers further east by prevailing westerly winds. Measurements were made that the Piney Reservoir Air Monitoring Station in Garrett County, Maryland, a spot surrounded by forest and farm land, where winds arrive commonly from the west and northwest.

"Our site is located downwind from three states that are top mercury emitters," said Castro. "We are in a hot spot to be impacted by regional emissions. If those emissions change, we are in a good spot to see it."

Models predicted that power plant emissions from the state of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia contributed up to 50% of the mercury that was deposited in Maryland from these states. The reductions in emissions could be seen in the frequency and maximum concentrations of the short-term episodic events of emissions, and the annual average concentrations.

There was a statistically significant decrease in the annual average concentrations from 2006 to 2013 and a strong correlation with annual power plant mercury emissions from the upwind states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This was a relatively large reduction and strongly suggested the emissions reduction strategies of CAIR and MATS were very effective at reducing the concentration of mercury in western Maryland. Full compliance with MATS, which includes a 90% reduction in power plant mercury emissions, is expected to lower concentrations even further.

The paper, "Effectiveness of Emission Controls to Reduce the Atmospheric Concentration of Mercury," was published by Mark Castro of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory and John Sherwell of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' Power Plant Research Program. It was published in Environmental Science & Technology.

###

This project was funded by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. EPA's Clear Air Markets Program.

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE

For 90 years, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has led the way toward better management of Maryland's natural resources and the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. From a network laboratories located across the state, UMCES scientists provide sound advice to help state and national leaders manage the environment, and prepare future scientists to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. http://www.umces.edu

Media Contact

Amy Pelsinsky
apelsinsky@umces.edu
410-330-1389

 @umces

http://www.umces.edu 

Amy Pelsinsky | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology
22.06.2017 | Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft

nachricht How reliable are shells as climate archives?
21.06.2017 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement

26.06.2017 | Life Sciences

Smooth propagation of spin waves using gold

26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Switchable DNA mini-machines store information

26.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>