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The Wisconsin DNR is considering allowing We Energies to increase the amount of mercury and arsenic released in wastewater that enters Lake Michigan, an amount more than triple the wildlife and human health standard.

Fish from the Great Lakes are already contaminated with heavy metals from the burning of fossil fuels. As it moves up the food chain, mercury becomes more concentrated, adversely affecting the development of babies and young children.

In 2004, the EPA indicated that one in six women of childbearing age has mercury levels in her blood above the current health threshold. Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs and immune system of people of all ages. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of industrial mercury emissions. Best practices in handling toxic waste should be implemented by We Energies as soon as possible.

"Mercury is a difficult pollutant, there is no way to sugarcoat it," Jason Knutson, wastewater section chief for the Wisconsin DNR, said in a report by Wisconsin Public Radio. "Based on our experience, we are not aware of any treatment technology that is able to achieve the 1.3 parts per trillion water quality standards.” There is, however, a way to completely reduce the release of mercury, arsenic, selenium, lead and other toxins into our lakes, rivers, and streams.

We Energies needs to quickly transition to renewable energy for the health and safety of our region.

Natalie Chulew, Racine

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