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Mercury and Our Environment

Air & Mercury

Mercury released into the air (from natural sources and human sources such as coal-fired power plants, municipal incinerators, and industrial boilers) is for the most part transported to the surface of the earth through precipitation. Mercury has been detected at precipitation monitoring stations throughout North America, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), established and operates the precipitation-monitoring network for mercury in Indiana.

This monitoring program is coordinated through the IDEM Mercury Work Group, and is funded by the USGS and IDEM's Office of Air Quality and Office of Water Quality. An overview of the IDEM/USGS Monitoring Program and currently available data summaries for the Indiana monitoring network are available to the public.

The National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN) is a nationwide network of precipitation monitoring sites. The network is a cooperative effort between many different groups, including the State Agricultural Experiment Stations, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and numerous other governmental and private entities. The purpose of the network is to collect data on the chemistry of precipitation for monitoring of geographical and temporal long-term trends.

Land & Mercury

  • Mercury Spill Information and Cleanup Guidance [PDF]:
    • Explains why mercury spills are dangerous, what you should do if a mercury spill occurs, and lists some common items that can release elemental mercury if mishandled.
  • Spill Summaries:
    • Check back often to see when and where reported cases of waste and chemical spills (including mercury) occur in Indiana
  • Indiana Solid Waste Management Districts:
    • Solid waste districts provide services for solid waste planning, household hazardous waste education and disposal, recycling, market development, education programs, and technical assistance.
  • Universal Waste Rule (329 IAC 3.1-16, incorporating 40 CFR 273)
    • The Universal Waste Rule is a modification of the Hazardous Waste Rules, enacted under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which is designed to reduce regulatory management requirements so as to foster the environmentally sound recycling or disposal of certain specified categories of commonly generated hazardous wastes.

Water & Mercury

  • Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters:
    • Learn which Indiana water bodies are not expected to meet applicable federal water quality standards. Mercury is one of the pollutants of concern screened for during water quality testing, and Indiana water bodies with mercury levels above federal standards are identified on this list.
  • Indiana Fish Consumption Advisory:
    • Health studies have shown fish to be a healthy food, being high in protein and low in saturated fats. However, fish accumulate contaminants (including mercury) from the water they live in and from the foods they eat. The Indiana Fish Consumption Advisory places specific fish species, located in specific water-bodies, into 5 different grouping categories based upon the amount of contaminants (including mercury) they contain.
  • Mercury Reduction Outreach for Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW):
    • Mercury is a toxic metal that has high bioconcentration and bioaccumulation rates when in the form of methylmercury. Water quality criteria treat all mercury as if it is in the form of methylmercury, the most common organic mercury compound in the environment. These materials and resources are intended to help minimize mercury contamination in POTWs.

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