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Title: MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK.

Abstract

A thorough quantitative understanding of the processes of mercury emissions, deposition, and translocation through the food chain is currently not available. Complex atmospheric chemistry and dispersion models are required to predict concentration and deposition contributions, and aquatic process models are required to predict effects on fish. However, there are uncertainties in all of these predictions. Therefore, the most reliable method of understanding impacts of coal-fired power plants on Hg deposition is from empirical data. A review of the literature on mercury deposition around sources including coal-fired power plants found studies covering local mercury concentrations in soil, vegetation, and animals (fish and cows). There is strong evidence of enhanced local deposition within 3 km of the chlor-alkali plants, with elevated soil concentrations and estimated deposition rates of 10 times background. For coal-fired power plants, the data show that atmospheric deposition of Hg may be slightly enhanced. On the scale of a few km, modeling suggests that wet deposition may be increased by a factor of two or three over background. The measured data suggest lower increases of 15% or less. The effects of coal-fired plants seem to be less than 10% of total deposition on a national scale, based on emissionsmore » and global modeling. The following summarizes our findings from published reports on the impacts of local deposition. In terms of excesses over background the following increments have been observed within a few km of the plant: (1) local soil concentration Hg increments of 30%-60%, (2) sediment increments of 18-30%, (3) wet deposition increments of 11-12%, and (4) fish Hg increments of about 5-6%, based on an empirical finding that fish concentrations are proportional to the square root of deposition. Important uncertainties include possible reductions of RGM to Hg{sub 0} in power plant plumes and the role of water chemistry in the relationship between Hg deposition and fish content. Soil and vegetation sampling programs were performed around two mid-size coal fired power plants. The objectives were to determine if local mercury hot-spots exist, to determine if they could be attributed to deposition of coal-fired power plant emissions, and to determine if they correlated with model predictions. These programs found the following: (1) At both sites, there was no correlation between modeled mercury deposition and either soil concentrations or vegetation concentrations. At the Kincaid plant, there was excess soil Hg along heavily traveled roads. The spatial pattern of soil mercury concentrations did not match the pattern of vegetation Hg concentrations at either plant. (2) At both sites, the subsurface (5-10 cm) samples the Hg concentration correlated strongly with the surface samples (0-5 cm). Average subsurface sample concentrations were slightly less than the surface samples; however, the difference was not statistically significant. (3) An unequivocal definition of background Hg was not possible at either site. Using various assumed background soil mercury concentrations, the percentage of mercury deposited within 10 km of the plant ranged between 1.4 and 8.5% of the RGM emissions. Based on computer modeling, Hg deposition was primarily RGM with much lower deposition from elemental mercury. Estimates of the percentage of total Hg deposition ranged between 0.3 and 1.7%. These small percentages of deposition are consistent with the empirical findings of only minor perturbations in environmental levels, as opposed to ''hot spots'', near the plants. The major objective of this study was to determine if there was evidence for ''hot-spots'' of mercury deposition around coal-fired power plants. Although the term has been used extensively, it has never been defined. From a public health perspective, such a ''hot spot'' must be large enough to insure that it did not occur by chance, and it must affect water bodies large enough to support a population of subsistence fishers. The results of this study support the hypothesis that neither of these conditions has been met.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Brookhaven National Lab. (BNL), Upton, NY (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
DOE/SC
OSTI Identifier:
877288
Report Number(s):
BNL-75594-2006
R&D Project: 13904; AA2025200; TRN: US200607%%366
DOE Contract Number:
DE-AC02-98CH10886
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
01 COAL, LIGNITE, AND PEAT; ANIMALS; ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY; COAL; DEPOSITION; FOOD CHAINS; HOT SPOTS; MERCURY; PLANTS; PLUMES; POWER PLANTS; PUBLIC HEALTH; SOILS; WASHOUT; WATER CHEMISTRY; MERCURY DEPOSITION, HUMAN HEALTH RISKS, SOIL SAMPLING

Citation Formats

SULLIVAN, T.M., BOWERMAN, B., ADAMS, J., LIPFERT, F., MORRIS, S.M., BANDO, A., PENA, R., and BLAKE, R.. MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK.. United States: N. p., 2005. Web. doi:10.2172/877288.
SULLIVAN, T.M., BOWERMAN, B., ADAMS, J., LIPFERT, F., MORRIS, S.M., BANDO, A., PENA, R., & BLAKE, R.. MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK.. United States. doi:10.2172/877288.
SULLIVAN, T.M., BOWERMAN, B., ADAMS, J., LIPFERT, F., MORRIS, S.M., BANDO, A., PENA, R., and BLAKE, R.. Thu . "MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK.". United States. doi:10.2172/877288. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/877288.
@article{osti_877288,
title = {MERCURY EMISSIONS FROM COAL FIRED POWER PLANTS LOCAL IMPACTS ON HUMAN HEALTH RISK.},
author = {SULLIVAN, T.M. and BOWERMAN, B. and ADAMS, J. and LIPFERT, F. and MORRIS, S.M. and BANDO, A. and PENA, R. and BLAKE, R.},
abstractNote = {A thorough quantitative understanding of the processes of mercury emissions, deposition, and translocation through the food chain is currently not available. Complex atmospheric chemistry and dispersion models are required to predict concentration and deposition contributions, and aquatic process models are required to predict effects on fish. However, there are uncertainties in all of these predictions. Therefore, the most reliable method of understanding impacts of coal-fired power plants on Hg deposition is from empirical data. A review of the literature on mercury deposition around sources including coal-fired power plants found studies covering local mercury concentrations in soil, vegetation, and animals (fish and cows). There is strong evidence of enhanced local deposition within 3 km of the chlor-alkali plants, with elevated soil concentrations and estimated deposition rates of 10 times background. For coal-fired power plants, the data show that atmospheric deposition of Hg may be slightly enhanced. On the scale of a few km, modeling suggests that wet deposition may be increased by a factor of two or three over background. The measured data suggest lower increases of 15% or less. The effects of coal-fired plants seem to be less than 10% of total deposition on a national scale, based on emissions and global modeling. The following summarizes our findings from published reports on the impacts of local deposition. In terms of excesses over background the following increments have been observed within a few km of the plant: (1) local soil concentration Hg increments of 30%-60%, (2) sediment increments of 18-30%, (3) wet deposition increments of 11-12%, and (4) fish Hg increments of about 5-6%, based on an empirical finding that fish concentrations are proportional to the square root of deposition. Important uncertainties include possible reductions of RGM to Hg{sub 0} in power plant plumes and the role of water chemistry in the relationship between Hg deposition and fish content. Soil and vegetation sampling programs were performed around two mid-size coal fired power plants. The objectives were to determine if local mercury hot-spots exist, to determine if they could be attributed to deposition of coal-fired power plant emissions, and to determine if they correlated with model predictions. These programs found the following: (1) At both sites, there was no correlation between modeled mercury deposition and either soil concentrations or vegetation concentrations. At the Kincaid plant, there was excess soil Hg along heavily traveled roads. The spatial pattern of soil mercury concentrations did not match the pattern of vegetation Hg concentrations at either plant. (2) At both sites, the subsurface (5-10 cm) samples the Hg concentration correlated strongly with the surface samples (0-5 cm). Average subsurface sample concentrations were slightly less than the surface samples; however, the difference was not statistically significant. (3) An unequivocal definition of background Hg was not possible at either site. Using various assumed background soil mercury concentrations, the percentage of mercury deposited within 10 km of the plant ranged between 1.4 and 8.5% of the RGM emissions. Based on computer modeling, Hg deposition was primarily RGM with much lower deposition from elemental mercury. Estimates of the percentage of total Hg deposition ranged between 0.3 and 1.7%. These small percentages of deposition are consistent with the empirical findings of only minor perturbations in environmental levels, as opposed to ''hot spots'', near the plants. The major objective of this study was to determine if there was evidence for ''hot-spots'' of mercury deposition around coal-fired power plants. Although the term has been used extensively, it has never been defined. From a public health perspective, such a ''hot spot'' must be large enough to insure that it did not occur by chance, and it must affect water bodies large enough to support a population of subsistence fishers. The results of this study support the hypothesis that neither of these conditions has been met.},
doi = {10.2172/877288},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Thu Dec 01 00:00:00 EST 2005},
month = {Thu Dec 01 00:00:00 EST 2005}
}

Technical Report:

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  • This report presents a follow-up to previous assessments of the health risks of mercury that BNL performed for the Department of Energy. Methylmercury is an organic form of mercury that has been implicated as the form of mercury that impacts human health. A comprehensive risk assessment report was prepared (Lipfert et al., 1994) that led to several journal articles and conference presentations (Lipfert et al. 1994, 1995, 1996). In 2001, a risk assessment of mercury exposure from fish consumption was performed for 3 regions of the U.S (Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest) identified by the EPA as regions of higher impactmore » from coal emissions (Sullivan, 2001). The risk assessment addressed the effects of in utero exposure to children through consumption of fish by their mothers. Two population groups (general population and subsistence fishers) were considered. Three mercury levels were considered in the analysis, current conditions based on measured data, and hypothetical reductions in Hg levels due to a 50% and 90% reduction in mercury emissions from coal fired power plants. The findings of the analysis suggested that a 90% reduction in coal-fired emissions would lead to a small reduction in risk to the general population (population risk reduction on the order of 10{sup -5}) and that the population risk is born by less than 1% of the population (i.e. high end fish consumers). The study conducted in 2001 focused on the health impacts arising from regional deposition patterns as determined by measured data and modeling. Health impacts were assessed on a regional scale accounting for potential percent reductions in mercury emissions from coal. However, quantitative assessment of local deposition near actual power plants has not been attempted. Generic assessments have been performed, but these are not representative of any single power plant. In this study, general background information on the mercury cycle, mercury emissions from coal plants, and risk assessment are provided to provide the basis for examining the impacts of local deposition. A section that covers modeling of local deposition of mercury emitted from coal power plants follows. The code ISCST3 was used with mercury emissions data from two power plants and local meteorological conditions to assess local deposition. The deposition modeling results were used to estimate the potential increase in mercury deposition that could occur in the vicinity of the plant. Increased deposition was assumed to lead to a linearly proportional increase in mercury concentrations in fish in local water bodies. Fish are the major pathway for human health impacts and the potential for increased mercury exposure was evaluated and the risks of such exposure estimated. Based on the findings recommendations for future work and conclusions are provided. Mercury is receiving substantial attention in a number of areas including: understanding of mercury deposition, bioaccumulation, and transport through the atmosphere, and improvements to the understanding of health impacts created by exposure to mercury. A literature review of key articles is presented as Appendix A.« less
  • The Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) as proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when fully implemented will lead to reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 70 percent to fifteen tons per year by 2018. The EPA estimates that mercury deposition would be reduced 8 percent on average in the Eastern United States. The CAMR permits cap-and-trade approach that requires the nationwide emissions to meet the prescribed level, but do not require controls on each individual power plant. This has led to concerns that there may be hot-spots ofmore » mercury contamination near power plants. Partially because of this concern, many states including Pennsylvania have implemented, or are considering, state regulations that are stricter on mercury emissions than those in the CAMR. This study examined the possibility that coal-fired power plants act as local sources leading to mercury 'hot spots'. Soil and oak leaf samples from around three large U.S. coal-fired power plants in Western Pennsylvania were collected and analyzed for evidence of 'hot spots'. These three plants (Conemaugh, Homer City, and Keystone) are separated by a total distance of approximately 30 miles. Each emits over 500 pounds of mercury per year which is well above average for mercury emissions from coal plants in the U.S. Soil and oak leaf sampling programs were performed around each power plant. Sampling rings one-mile apart were used with eight or nine locations on each ring. The prevailing winds in the region are from the west. For this reason, sampling was conducted out to 10 miles from the Conemaugh plant which is southeast of the others. The other plants were sampled to a distance of five miles. The objectives were to determine if local mercury hot spots exist, to determine if they could be attributed to deposition of coal-fired power plant emissions, and to determine if they correlated with wind patterns. The study found the following: (1) There was some correlation between the prevailing wind direction and measured soil and oak leaf concentrations. This correlation was not statistically significant, but higher soil concentrations were generally found in the east and southeast from the plants and lower soil concentrations were found west/southwest from the plants. The prevailing winds are to the east. The Conemaugh plant which was the most southeast of the three plants did have the highest average oak leaf and soil mercury concentrations. Based on emissions, the Keystone plant would be expected to see the highest concentrations as it emitted about 25% more mercury than the other two plants. (2) The results of this study did not turn up strong evidence for large areas (several square miles) of elevated mercury concentrations around the three coal-fired power plants that were tested. This does not mean that there is no effect, there was some evidence of increasing mercury content to the east and south of these plants, however, the trends were not statistically significant suggesting that if the effects exist, they are small.« less
  • A thorough quantitative understanding of the processes of mercury emissions, deposition, and translocation through the food chain is currently not available. Complex atmospheric chemistry and dispersion models are required to predict concentration and deposition contributions, and aquatic process models are required to predict effects on fish. There are uncertainties in all of these predictions. Therefore, the most reliable method of understanding impacts of coal-fired power plants on Hg deposition is from empirical data. A review of the literature on mercury deposition around sources including coal-fired power plants found studies covering local mercury concentrations in soil, vegetation, and animals (fish andmore » cows (Lopez et al. 2003)). There is strong evidence of enhanced local deposition within 3 km of the chlor-alkali plants, with elevated soil concentrations and estimated deposition rates of 10 times background. For coal-fired power plants, the data show that atmospheric deposition of Hg may be slightly enhanced. On the scale of a few km, modeling suggests that wet deposition may be increased by a factor of two or three over background. The measured data suggest lower increases of 15% or less. The effects of coal-fired plants seem to be less than 10% of total deposition on a national scale, based on emissions and global modeling. The following summarizes our findings from published reports on the impacts of local deposition. In terms of excesses over background the following increments have been observed within a few km of the plant: (1) local soil concentration Hg increments of 30%-60%, (2) sediment increments of 18-30%, (3) wet deposition increments of 11-12%, and (4) fish Hg increments of about 5-6%, based on an empirical finding that fish concentrations are proportional to the square root of deposition. Important uncertainties include possible reductions of RGM to Hg(0) in power plant plumes and the role of water chemistry in the relationship between Hg deposition and fish content. Soil and vegetation sampling programs were performed around two mid-size coal fired power plants. The objectives were to determine if local mercury hot spots exist, to determine if they could be attributed to deposition of coal-fired power plant emissions, and to determine if they correlated with model predictions. These programs found the following: (1) At both sites, there was no correlation between modeled mercury deposition and either soil concentrations or vegetation concentrations. At the Kincaid plant, there was excess soil Hg along heavily traveled roads. The spatial pattern of soil mercury concentrations did not match the pattern of vegetation Hg concentrations at either plant. (2) At both sites, the subsurface (5-10 cm) samples the Hg concentration correlated strongly with the surface samples (0-5 cm). Average subsurface sample concentrations were slightly less than the surface samples, however, the difference was not statistically significant. (3) An unequivocal definition of background Hg was not possible at either site. Using various assumed background soil mercury concentrations, the percentage of mercury deposited within 10 km of the plant ranged between 1.4 and 8.5% of the RGM emissions. Based on computer modeling, Hg deposition was primarily RGM with much lower deposition from elemental mercury. Estimates of the percentage of total Hg deposition ranged between 0.3 and 1.7%. These small percentages of deposition are consistent with the empirical findings of only minor perturbations in environmental levels, as opposed to ''hot spots'', near the plants. The major objective of this study was to determine if there was evidence for ''hot spots'' of mercury deposition around coal-fired power plants. Although the term has been used extensively, it has never been defined. From a public health perspective, such a ''hot spot'' must be large enough to insure that it did not occur by chance, and it must affect water bodies large enough to support a population of subsistence fishers. The results of this study support the hypothesis that neither of these conditions have been met.« less
  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced plans to regulate mercury (Hg) emissions from coal-fired power plants. EPA has not prepared a quantitative assessment of the reduction in risk that could be achieved through reduction in coal plant emissions of Hg. To address this issue, Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) with support from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy (DOE FE) prepared a quantitative assessment of the reduction in human health risk that could be achieved through reduction in coal plant emissions of Hg. The primary pathway for Hg exposure is through consumption of fish. The mostmore » susceptible population to Hg exposure is the fetus. Therefore the risk assessment focused on consumption of fish by women of child-bearing age. Dose response factors were generated from studies on loss of cognitive abilities (language skills, motor skills, etc.) by young children whose mothers consumed large amounts of fish with high Hg levels. Population risks were estimated for the general population in three regions of the country, (the Midwest, Northeast, and Southeast) that were identified by EPA as being heavily impacted by coal emissions. Three scenarios for reducing Hg emissions from coal plants were considered: (1) A base case using current conditions; (2) A 50% reduction; and, (3) A 90% reduction. These reductions in emissions were assumed to translate linearly into a reduction in fish Hg levels of 8.6% and 15.5%, respectively. Population risk estimates were also calculated for two subsistence fisher populations. These groups of people consume substantially more fish than the general public and, depending on location, the fish may contain higher Hg levels than average. Risk estimates for these groups were calculated for the three Hg levels used for the general population analyses. Analysis shows that the general population risks for exposure of the fetus to Hg are small. Estimated risks under current conditions (i.e., no specific Hg controls) ranged from 5.7 x 10{sup -6} in the Midwest to 2 x 10{sup -5} in the Southeast. Reducing emissions from coal plants by 90% reduced the estimated range in risk to 5 x 10{sup -6} in the Midwest and 1.5 x 10{sup -5} in Southeast, respectively. The population risk for the subsistence fisher using the Southeast regional fish Hg levels was 3.8 x 10{sup -3}, a factor of 200 greater than the general population risk. For the subsistence fishers and the Savannah River Hg levels, the population risk was 4.3 x 10{sup -5}, a factor of 2 greater than for the general population. The estimated risk reductions from a 90% reduction in coal plant Hg emissions ranged from 25%-68%, which is greater than the assumed reduction in Hg levels in fish, (15.5%). To place this risk in perspective, there are approximately 4 x 10{sup 6} births/year in the U.S (National Vital Statistics Report, 2000). Assuming that the Southeast risk level (the highest of the regions) is appropriate for the entire U.S., an estimate of 80 newborn children per year have a 5% chance of realizing any of the 16 adverse effects used to generate the DRF. If Hg emissions from power plants are reduced 90%, the number of children at risk is reduced to 60.« less
  • The Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) and the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) as currently proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) when fully implemented will lead to reduction in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants by 70 percent to fifteen tons per year by 2018. The EPA estimates that mercury deposition would be reduced 8 percent on average in the Eastern United States. The CAMR permits cap-and-trade approach that requires the nationwide emissions to meet the prescribed level, but do not require controls on each individual power plant. This has led to concerns that there may be hot-spotsmore » of mercury contamination near power plants. Partially because of this concern, many states including Pennsylvania have implemented, or are considering, state regulations that are stricter on mercury emissions than those in the CAMR. This study examined the possibility that coal-fired power plants act as local sources leading to mercury ''hot spots'', using two types of evidence. First, the world-wide literature was searched for reports of deposition around mercury sources, including coal-fired power plants. Second, soil samples from around two mid-sized U.S. coal-fired power plants were collected and analyzed for evidence of ''hot spots'' and for correlation with model predictions of deposition. The following summarizes our findings from published reports on the impacts of local deposition. In terms of excesses over background the following increments have been observed within a few km of the plant: (A) local soil concentration Hg increments of 30%-60%, (B) sediment increments of 18-30%, (C) wet deposition increments of 11-12%, and (D) fish Hg increments of about 5-6%, based on an empirical finding that fish concentrations are proportional to the square root of deposition. Important uncertainties include possible reductions of RGM to Hg(0) in power plant plumes and the role of water chemistry in the relationship between Hg deposition and fish content. Soil and vegetation sampling programs were performed around the Monticello coal fired power plant. The objectives were to determine if local mercury hot spots exist, to determine if they could be attributed to deposition of coal-fired power plant emissions, and to determine if they correlated with model predictions. The study found the following: (1) There was no correlation between modeled mercury deposition and either soil concentrations or vegetation concentrations. At the Monticello plant, excess soil Hg was associated with soil characteristics with higher values near the lake. Vegetation concentration showed some correlation with soil concentrations having higher mercury in vegetation when the soil mercury. (2) Based on computer modeling, Hg deposition was primarily RGM with much lower deposition from elemental mercury. The total deposition within 50 Km of the plant was predicted to be 4.2% of the total emitted. In the deposition, RGM is responsible for 98.7% of the total deposition, elemental mercury accounts for 1.1% and particulate mercury accounts for 0.2%. Less than 1% of the elemental mercury emitted was predicted to deposit within 50 km.« less