Northeast States §319(g) Petition for Mercury
On October 28, 2008, utilizing a never-before-used provision of the Clean Water Act, NEIWPCC and its member states triggered a mandatory process for the U.S. EPA to control the atmospheric deposition of mercury that makes fish throughout the Northeast unsafe to eat. The states filed a petition with Administrator Johnson under the Clean Water Act’s Section 319(g), which requires U.S. EPA to craft agreements to resolve multi-state pollution issues. The states and NEIWPCC collaborated to prepare the petition. Section 319(g) of the law requires the U.S. EPA Administrator to respond to the petition by convening a management conference including all states that are significant sources of the mercury in Northeast waters. The purpose of the conference must be to develop an agreement among such states to reduce the level of pollution and improve the water quality of the New England states and New York State. This unprecedented multi-state action underscores the determination of the Northeast states to resolve the problem of contaminated fish and to address the main cause—mercury deposited in the Northeast from sources outside the region.
NEIWPCC and its member states developed the petition as a follow-up to the Northeast Regional Mercury TMDL, which was approved by EPA in December 2007. The TMDL highlights the need for reductions from out-of-region sources and the 319(g) petition is a tool to implement those reductions. The petition relies upon data from a 2008 report by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), Sources of Mercury Deposition in the Northeast United States, and names eleven out-of-region states that are significantly contributing to mercury impairments in waters of the Northeast.