The Gaston Steam Plant in Shelby County Alabama was named as the second largest coal-fired power plant producer of mercury released as an atmospheric pollutant in the United States in a report from the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) published on January 3, 2012.
The Gaston plant produced 1,244 pounds of mercury emissions in 2011.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) was used to identify the largest sources of dangerous pollutants based on annual reports the electric power industry submits to the Agency under federal Right to Know laws.
Mercury is a potent neurotoxin, especially harmful to developing fetuses and young children. “Emissions from local power plants deposit mercury and other toxic metals in nearby rivers and streams, where these pollutants concentrate in aquatic organisms at levels that can make fish unsafe to eat.” according to EIP attorney Ilan Levin.
Alabama Power has reduced mercury release from the Gaston Steam Plant by 80 percent from 2007 to 2011. Four of the production units will be converted to natural gas by 2015. Natural gas produces no mercury pollutants. The largest power producing unit is planned to be in compliance with EPA limits for mercury by 2015 or 2016 in time for the deadline set by the EPA for mercury control under the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard.