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Great Lakes Article:

Dropping Acid

Lakes and forests in the Northeast are not recovering from acid rain, according to a new study.

Program script for Monday, September 10, 2001
By Steve Pomplun
Article Courtesy of EarthWatch Radio

The Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 forced power plants to cut their sulfur emissions. The federal law targeted pollutants that form acid rain, which damages lakes, streams and forests. But these sensitive ecosystems are not recovering from the harm already done, according to a new study.

Scientists at the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation in New Hampshire say acid rain damage to the region is much worse than was known when the law was passed in 1990. They say deeper emission cuts are needed to help the Northeast recover.

The study, which was published in the journal BioScience, looked at acid rain's effect on soil, water and trees. It found that soils across the Northeast have lost large amounts of calcium, an important nutrient. And acid rain sets off a chemical reaction in which aluminum in the soil ends up poisoning plants.

The scientists also found that waters in the region remain acidified, including 41 percent of the lakes in New York's Adirondacks. Fish and other aquatic species have not recovered.

And forests continue to suffer from the effects of the acid. Trees are more susceptible to insect damage and disease, and they can't tolerate weather extremes as well as healthy trees can.

The Hubbard Brook report calls for deeper cuts in emissions from power plants, which produce the largest share of the sulfur dioxide pollution in the United States. Plants in the Midwest are blamed for most of the damage to the Northeast.

The scientists say an additional 80 percent reduction in sulfur emissions would be required for lakes and forests to recover over the next 25 years.

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