By: Sarah McBride, Program Coordinator for Media and Public Engagement, Moms Clean Air Force
Date: February 24, 2022
About: Mercury and Air Toxics Standards for Power Plants: Proposed Reaffirmation of the Appropriate and Necessary Finding, Docket ID No. EPA–HQ–OAR–2018–0794
To: Environmental Protection Agency
Thank you for this opportunity to testify. My name is Sarah McBride, and I am the Program Coordinator for Media and Public Engagement with Moms Clean Air Force. I am from Falmouth, Massachusetts, where I have lived for most of my life, and I support this administration’s proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary finding of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
Falmouth is a small town on Cape Cod. The summers here are beautiful, which is why hundreds of thousands of tourists come to the town each summer to boat, bike, enjoy the beach, and fish. I spent countless summer hours throughout my childhood and teenage years swimming in the ponds in and around Falmouth, which is why I was shocked to learn only recently that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued fish advisories for every single one of these ponds due to high mercury concentrations in the fish.
A fishing advisory for one pond stood out to me—Jenkins Pond. My family moved several times when I was growing up, and one summer we lived in a short-term rental very close to Jenkins Pond. Although we lived in the summer rental while my parents looked for more permanent housing, many of the houses in that area were rented out in the summer to tourists. I don’t remember ever seeing a fishing advisory posted on the pond’s beach that summer, but I do remember seeing lots of people fishing—many of whom put their catch in coolers and probably ate the fish later that day, unknowingly exposing themselves to high levels of mercury. While I was preparing this testimony, I asked my parents whether or not they knew that it was unsafe to eat the freshwater fish around here, and they said they had no idea. My dad is a fisheries biologist and my mom is a retired estuarine ecologist, and both have lived in Falmouth for over 16 years. If they don’t know that many of the fish here are unsafe to eat, then I doubt that most of the tourists do.
Considering the number of fishing poles I see sticking out of truck beds and strapped to the roof racks of cars with New Hampshire and Connecticut license plates each summer, I think it’s a safe bet that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists who eat the fish they catch in the pond near their summer rental each year, completely unaware of the dangers.
And the consequences of consuming mercury-contaminated fish are significant and long term. There is no safe level of mercury consumption, and exposure can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks. When pregnant women eat the fish, the mercury can cause impaired motor function and behavioral problems in their children, among other issues. It’s heartbreaking to think that a family’s summer fun could have such profound, long-lasting impacts on their health.
Limiting pollution from coal-fired power plants is an important way to prevent more mercury from contaminating air, water, and the fish we eat, and safeguard the health of current generations and those to come. For this reason, among many others, I support the proposal to reinstate the appropriate and necessary findings of the MATS and I urge you to go further and strengthen the MATS standards. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to testify.