News | November 18, 2004

New Jersey Adopts The Nation's Strongest Mmercury And Arsenic Standards

Trenton, NJ -- New Jersey has adopted the strongest mercury and arsenic standards in the nation. The rules, which were announced by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell, last week, will reduce mercury emissions from certain facilities by up to 90 percent by the end of 2007 and will cut in half the acceptable limit of arsenic in drinking water by 2006.

"These rules build upon Governor McGreevey's strong legacy of fighting pollution and protecting New Jersey's drinking water," said Campbell. "If New Jersey's mercury rules were enacted nationally, annual emissions from coal-fired power plants alone would decline from approximately 48 tons to about five tons. At the same time, through existing technologies we can provide greater health protections, reducing the risk of cancers from arsenic in drinking water."

The adopted mercury regulations call for a 90-percent reduction of mercury emissions from the state's 10 coal-fired boilers in power plants by the end of 2007. The rules allow for some flexibility, giving plants the option of meeting the standards in 2012 if they also make major reductions in their emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulates.

The new regulations also mandate a reduction of mercury emissions from the state's six iron and steel melters of 75 percent by the end of 2009. The state estimates that iron and steel manufacturing plants are the largest New Jersey-based sources of mercury emissions with much of their materials coming from shredded automobiles' scrap metal.

The rules also call for a further reduction of mercury emissions from New Jersey's five municipal solid waste (MSW) incinerators of at least 95 percent below 1990 levels in 2011.

In addition, the mercury rules contain standards for medical waste incinerators that are already being met by the three facilities operating in New Jersey. These protective standards will ensure that these incinerators continue to minimize mercury emissions, allowing for a maximum level of emissions that is one-tenth the current federal limit.

The new arsenic rules establish a maximum contaminant level of five parts per billion (ppb) for arsenic concentrations in drinking water, effective January 23, 2006. In February 2002, the federal government adopted a 10-ppb arsenic drinking water standard, also effective January 23, 2006. No state other than New Jersey has adopted an arsenic standard as protective as 5 ppb.

New Jersey requires monitoring for arsenic at more than 600 public community water systems and 900 non-transient, non-community systems, which combined serve around 85 percent of the
state's population. Based on past data, the DEP predicts approximately 34 community and 101 non-community systems will have arsenic levels exceeding the new 5-ppb standard.

In addition, the new state arsenic standard will apply to private well owners regulated under New Jersey's Private Well Testing Act, requiring notification of consumers about arsenic concentrations during a real estate transaction and when renting property.

Source: New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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