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67 Years Working for Clean Water: 1947 through 2014

Water Quality | Mercury

Mercury is a toxic metal that is released to the environment through natural and human processes. Most commonly, the gaseous form is released to the atmosphere, which is then deposited onto land and water in rain and snow. Once in the water, the mercury can be converted to its most toxic form, methylmercury, which accumulates in fish and aquatic organisms. Humans are exposed to methylmercury and its associated health problems by consuming contaminated fish. The challenge posed by mercury is significant, and NEIWPCC and its member states are increasingly involved in this complicated issue. NEIWPCC provides support to its member states by tracking and reviewing technical and policy issues related to mercury, coordinating regional mercury projects, and participating in national and regional groups focused on mercury. Most notably, NEIWPCC played a lead role in coordinating the Northeast Regional Mercury TMDL and the Northeast States’ Clean Water Act Section 319(g) Petition for Mercury.

Mercury Water Quality Standards in NEIWPCC States

EPA and all of the NEIWPCC states have established water quality criteria for mercury for protection of aquatic life and to allow for safe human consumption of fish. Some states have also set water quality criteria for drinking water.

EPA published a Methylmercury Criteria Document in 2001 that recommended fish tissue criteria to protect human health from methylmercury. The criterion is 0.3 mg methylmercury/kg fish, which is the concentration in fish tissue that should not be exceeded based on a total fish and shellfish consumption-weighted rate of 0.0175 kg fish/day. EPA encourages states and authorized tribes to develop a water quality criterion for methylmercury using local or regional data rather than the default values if they believe that such a water quality criterion would be more appropriate for their target population. In the Northeast, Maine and Massachusetts have adopted methylmercury criterion for fish tissue of 0.2 and 0.3 mg methylmercury/kg fish, respectively. For information on water quality criteria for other parameters, see our water quality standards matrix.

 

 

EPA

CT

MA

ME

NH

NY

RI

VT

Aquatic Life

Freshwater Acute

1.4

1.4

1.4

1.7

1.4

1.4

1.4

2.4

Freshwater Chronic

0.77

0.77

0.77

0.91

0.77

0.77

0.77

0.012

Saltwater Acute

1.8

1.8

1.8

2.1

1.8

N/A

1.8

N/A

Saltwater Chronic

0.94

0.94

0.94

1.1

0.94

N/A

0.94

N/A

Human Health

Consumption of Water and Organisms

N/A

0.05

N/A

N/A

0.05

0.7*

0.14

0.14

Consumption of Organisms Only

0.3 mg/kg **

0.051

0.3 mg/kg **

0.2 mg/kg **

0.051

7x10-4

0.15

0.15

All concentrations in µg/l unless otherwise noted.
* Applies to drinking water source only.
** Criterion is for concentration in fish tissue.



For more information on Mercury in the Northeast, contact Dan Peckham, our mercury coordinator.

 

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