Advocacy groups praise passage of mercury pollution prevention bill
ALBANY, N.Y. – The Senate and Assembly passed legislation late Friday that will reduce mercury pollution in the State, after environmental and public health groups, together with municipal recycling officials, had advocated for the piece of legislation since 2010.
The Mercury Thermostat Collection Act, supported by Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, will require thermostat manufacturers to collect and safely dispose of mercury-containing thermostats, which are known to be major source of mercury in the waste stream.
"The passage of this legislation is one of the most important environmental victories in Albany this year," said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters.
The legislation requires thermostat manufacturers to collect 15,500 thermostats in 2015, and requires the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to establish annual collection goals thereafter.
"This is a significant win for the environment," said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group. "Over the years, New York has taken great strides to reduce mercury pollution. This bill addresses one of the largest remaining sources of mercury pollution in New York, the hundreds of thousands of mercury-containing thermostats that are discarded each year."
This measure will put New York in line with other states that have adopted strong mercury thermostat collection laws. A report released earlier this year showed that with a collection rate of only 1 percent, New York currently ranks 37th in the nation for the collection of discarded mercury thermostats.
While thermostats containing mercury are no longer sold in New York, they pose a serious environmental threat when they are disposed of improperly. Each year more than a ton of mercury ends up in New York's landfills and waste combustion facilities from improperly discarded mercury thermostats. This legislation will help create a healthier environment throughout New York State, and reduce potentially harmful mercury impacts on our air, land and water resources.
"This legislation will help to reduce the amount of mercury getting into our waste streams and reaching our wastewater treatment plants and ultimately our waterways," said Paul Gallay, President and Hudson Riverkeeper. "We commend Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Sweeney for their leadership and recognition of the threat that mercury poses to public health and the environment."
Mercury is a highly potent neurotoxin that negatively affects human health. Pregnant women, infants, and children are most at risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between 300,000 and 630,000 infants each year are born in the United States with mercury levels high enough to be associated with IQ loss.
Fish and birds are also negatively impacted by mercury which is classified as hazardous waste.
The bill now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk for signing.
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