You may not be able to see it, but if you live or breathe in Mississippi, the air around you may be a little more toxic than you think. That's according to a list of states known as the "Toxic 20", put out by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
On that list, number one being the worst, the Magnolia State comes in at number 17.
"Make no mistake about it, we have a long way to go to reduce toxic air pollution from power plants," John Walke, the council's clean air director.
Walke says the list was determined by examining the 2010 reported toxic emissions to the Environmental Protection Agency. Mississippi wasn't even on the list last year, based on numbers from 2009 showing two million pounds of industrial toxins. In just one year, however, that amount doubled to nearly 4 million pounds. That's a one hundred percent increase.
"That is frankly astonishing and is not matched by any other state in the inventory that we looked at. There's clearly something significant going on," said Walke.
To find out what's going, WLBT asked the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. However, no one at the department has responded to requests for comment, but did confirm they received the report and were reviewing it.
Walke says he has an idea of what could be happening, pointing to new activity.
"That's the more likely explanation, a new plant or the increased activity levels from the existing fleet of generators," said Walke.
Nationally the report does show a 19 percent reduction in toxic emissions from 2009 to 2010. Walke says that's in large part thanks to better pollution controls put in place by power plants and a transition to natural gas use instead of coal.
Even with the reduction, Walke says health concerns are still lingering in the air and is calling on the EPA to issue new standards in air quality.
"We're talking about curbing toxic pollution that harms millions of Americans each year," said Walke.
Late Thursday afternoon, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality issued a statement saying an increase in hydrochloric acid appears to be the cause for that result and could be based on the type of coal used that year.
The department assures the state has good air quality.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is even coming out against U.S. Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker for supporting a measure in Congress to repeal the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS).
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