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Acid rain still endangers Adirondacks

Levels of some acid rain pollutants are on the rise in New York State, despite air-protection laws passed a decade ago  

April 19, 2000
Web posted at: 2:54 PM EDT (1854 GMT)

SARANACK, New York (CNN) -- A new federal study finds that acid rain still devastate lakes in the Adirondacks, 10 years after Congress amended the Clean Air Act to deal with the problem. The report comes as no surprise to 94-year-old Clarence Petty, who for a lifetime has seen the trout steadily disappear from his boyhood haunts.

When Petty was a boy, the lake outside his family home in the New York Adirondacks was rich with trout.

"We used to have swarms of kingfishers picking up fish, you go out there now in the summer, you'll be lucky if you find one."

 VIDEO
VideoCNN's Deborah Feyerick reports on the effects of acid rain on a lake in New York.
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Petty's lake was slowly poisoned by acid rain, pollution that comes from burnt oil and coal, blown in primarily from Midwest utility plants.

Congressional action a decade ago was meant to reduce the airborne pollutants, but a new federal report indicates the measures were not enough.

"It appears we have not removed enough sulfur from the atmosphere and are not going to remove enough sulfur emissions to really reach the level to protect sensitive ecosystems," Gene Likens of the Institute of Ecosystem Studies said.

While sulfur levels are inching down, the study says levels of another acid rain pollutant, nitric acid, are on the rise.

"I don't think its doom and gloom but I certainly feel we need to change that course," said Walt Kretser with New York state's Department of Environmental Conservation.

Water tests taken by biologists have determined many Adirondack lakes have life-threatening acid levels  

Three-thousand lakes and ponds dot the Adirondacks. Nearly half are at risk because they have no buffers, meaning nothing in the soil to neutralize the acid. Every month, biologists test a sampling of lakes and ponds, from the air and by canoe.

About 350 lakes and ponds have so much acid they no longer can sustain life, according to researchers.

Attempts to reduce out-of-state emissions have frustrated New York state officials, who sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency several years ago to enforce the Clean Air Act.

"You take a look at what the federal law requires and you see states completely ignore it. There's no justification," New York Gov. George Pataki said.

The EPA defends the progress made in reducing emissions, but agrees more could be done.

"We're the first to recognize that we're going to need some additional pollution reductions to meet acid rain, and we're going to need the authority of Congress to do that," EPA Administrator Carol Browner said.

Even so, Clarence Petty believes the Adirondacks of his boyhood are gone forever.




RELATED STORIES:
Acid rain eats away at Northeast
April 3, 2000
Recovery begins from acid rain damage
October 18, 1999
Acid rain works fast, study finds
March 12, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Adirondacks
Plain English Guide to The Clean Air Act
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Environmental Protection Agency


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