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April 22, 2009

Sierra Club Tests Anglers for Mercury

South Carolina anglers found their way into a Florence County barber shop earlier this month where they were tested for mercury poisoning via samples of their hair. The testing event was sponsored by the Sierra Club and a coalition of conservation groups opposing a proposed new coal plant that would emit an additional 93 pounds of mercury into the already contaminated “mercury triangle” each year. 


“I’m hoping this exercise today will shed light on the truth that there is mercury out there, and we don’t want more,” said Dr. Weave Whitehead, 38, a lifelong Florence area resident, pediatrician and S.C. Wildlife Federation  board member.


The mercury emitted from the new coal plant, proposed by utility Santee Cooper, could settle in area rivers, contaminating the fish locals love to eat. Already residents have been advised to limit the amount and kinds of fish they eat from the Great Pee Dee River and the Little Pee Dee River, both near the proposed plant.


People of various ages and races who fish from the Pee Dee volunteered for the test. “The hair samples will now be sent to a nationally certified lab,” said John Ramsburgh, director of the Sierra Club of South Carolina. And while the test results won’t be back for a few weeks, the event succeeded in raising this important issue.

SC testing event

                                        photo:John D. Russell, AP



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