A Salt Lake City environmentalist is claiming Utahns are once again being used as guinea pigs to test the effects of airborne pollution.
Patty Henetz at < The Salt Lake Tribune reports today that federal researchers have found some of the highest levels of mercury in the nation in the Great Salt Lake.
Decades after nuclear fallout from Cold War era tests drifted eastward from Nevada, mercury is now riding the winds into Utah.
Some experts say a cluster of gold mines near Elko, Nevada, is a primary source of the pollution.
Despite federal concerns about the effects of this powerful neurotoxin, gold mines are not required to meet federal mercury emission controls imposed upon coal-fired generation plants.
In 2003, gold mines operating near Elko reported 4,446 pounds of mercury were released into the atmosphere.
By comparison, older coal-fired generating plants reportedly emit 200 to 400 pounds per year.
Utah is developing protocol to monitor fish for mercury levels and one sample tested thus far has exceeded safe levels.
The gold mines’ air quality permits are up for review in Nevada this year but two top level employees of the state’s air quality planning and control were unable to answer elementary questions about the the federal government’s voluntary air quality program or if the state would take any action to force the gold mines to reduce mercury emissions.