Efforts to reduce mercury emissions from Plant Scherer have worked in spite of initial resistance from the power plant's owners, environmentalists say.
The massive coal-fired plant in Juliette was third on the Environmental Integrity Project's "Toxic 10" list of the worst mercury emitters based on 2008 data, but didn't even appear on the group's report released Thursday based on 2011 data (as first noted by the Telegraph's S. Heather Duncan).
Emissions of the toxic heavy metal from Plant Scherer plummeted more than 86 percent between the two reports, according to data compiled by the Environmental Integrity Project and confirmed by plant officials.
1,589 pounds of mercury passed through the plant's smoke stacks in 2008, compared to just 221 pounds in 2011.
Georgia Power — which operates and partially owns Plant Scherer — is in the midst of a $5 billion project to reduce hazardous emissions at plants statewide, said spokesperson Mark Williams.
"A lot of these decreases [at Plant Scherer] have been accomplished because of the installation of four bag houses which, along with an activated carbon injection process, dramatically reduces those emissions," Williams said.
But those improvements were made in response to regulations issued by the Georgia Department of Natural Resource in 2009, at least some of which were opposed by Georgia power, said Environment Georgia policy advocate Jenette Gayer.
The rapid reduction in mercury emissions from Plant Scherer is nonetheless something to celebrate, Gayer said, though she offered one caveat.
"Even if you're taking it out of the stuff that's coming out of a smokestack, the mercury is ending up in a scrubber, which then is being put usually into a pond that is just sitting next to Plant Scherer," Gayer said, chuckling. "So it's not like the mercury is going away altogether."
Williams characterized the plant's storage facility for the filtered material as "safe."