Spring is finally here, and people across Illinois are thinking of getting outside. Certainly one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors is fishing - a perfect excuse to spend a morning or an afternoon on a lake or a riverbank with your family, friends, or in the quiet of nature. It's not surprising that there are 700,000 fishing licenses issued each year in Illinois.
Unfortunately, those anglers may be getting more than just a relaxing day on the water when they fish Illinois. If they are bringing their catch home for dinner, they may be putting their family's health at risk by connecting dirty coal plant smokestacks to their kids' nervous systems.
Midlothian Reservoir in Cook County's Forest Preserves is a "hotspot" for mercury pollution, carrying a special warning for women of child-bearing age.
A new report issued today by Illinois Public Interest Research Group examines two decades of fish tissue sampling data in Illinois and reports that the health threat posed by mercury-contaminated fish is a statewide phenomenon. Waters as diverse as Lake Michigan, a city park lagoon, the Rock River, Kinkaid Lake, or suburban streams like the DuPage River all are home to fish that carry dangerous amounts of mercury.
According to Illinois EPA, 70% of Illinois' mercury pollution comes from coal-burning power plants. Other states that have acted to cut their mercury emissions have seen mercury levels in fish drop substantially in less than a decade.
Fishing is still a great way to spend a beautiful spring day. Let's make sure it's not a health risk by cleaning up our coal plants.
Illinois EPA estimates that this coal plant in Romeoville put out 459 pounds of mercury pollution in 2004.