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Great Lakes Article:

Kirk study: lake mercury level high
By John Roszkowski
Deerfield Review, Pioneer Press Online
Published September 29, 2005

A new study released by U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-10th, of Highland Park, says coal-fired plants are a major source of air pollution and mercury contamination in Lake Michigan.

"The findings of my commissioned report showed that Lake Michigan has the heaviest mercury load of any of the Great Lakes and that the Chicagoland area has the highest level of mercury pollution in the country," said Kirk. "The source of this pollution is overwhelmingly coal-burning plants."

Kirk commissioned the study by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last year on mercury levels in the Great Lakes.

Coal-fired electric plants, many of which are scattered throughout Illinois and the Midwest, were exempt from adhering to the original mercury restrictions of the federal Clean Air Act, passed in the 1970s, Kirk said.

Matt Towson, a spokesman for Kirk, said Lake County has one coal-fired plant located in Waukegan.

President Bush has proposed new requirements for power plants to reduce mercury emissions by 70 percent by 2017, but Kirk favors legislation requiring a 90 percent reduction in mercury levels by 2010.

"The kind of technology I'm advocating is 20 years old and already is installed on thousands of smokestacks across America," he said. "Only smokestacks attached to coal-burning plants are still unregulated."

Kirk also is concerned about the threat of invasive species to the ecosystem of the Great Lakes such as the Asian Carp, the Lamprey Eel and the Zebra Mussel.

Kirk said he supports bi-partisan legislation to protect the lake from invasive species.

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