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CNN Today

Acid Rain Devastating Many Lakes in the Adirondacks

Aired April 19, 2000 - 1:51 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In the Northeastern U.S., the leading environmental concern is acid rain, the man-made pollutant that scientists say is killing lakes and streams. As part of our coverage of Earth Day this coming Saturday, CNN's Deborah Feyerick went to Saranac Lake in north-central New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When 94-year- old Clarence Heady was a boy, the lake outside his family home in the New York Adirondacks was rich with trout.

CLARENCE PETTY, ADIRONDACK RESIDENT: We used to have swarms of king fishers around here picking up fish. You go out there now in the summer, and you will be lucky if you find one.

FEYERICK: Petty's lake was slowly poisoned by acid rain. That pollution from burnt oil and coal blown in primarily from Midwest utility plants. Now, 10 years after Congress amended the Clean Air Act to try to deal with the problem, a federal study finds acid rain continues to devastate many lakes in the Adirondacks.

GENE LIKENS, INSTITUTE OF ECOSYSTEM STUDIES: By only focusing on a part of the problem, we have not begun to solve the problem. And it appears that we have not removed enough sulfur from the atmosphere.

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

WALTER KRETSER, NEW YORK STATE ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION: I don't think it is doom and gloom, but I certainly feel we need to do something to change the course.

FEYERICK: Every month biologists test a samplings of lakes and ponds from the air and by canoe.

(on camera): There are nearly 3000 lakes and ponds in the Adirondacks, nearly half are at risk, because there is no buffering, that is nothing in the soil to neutralize the acid from rain or snow.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Three hundred and fifty of those lakes and ponds have so much acid, researchers say they can no longer sustain life.

Attempts to reduce out-of-state emissions have frustrated New York State officials.

GOV. GEORGE PATAKI, NEW YORK: You take a look at what the federal law requires, and then you see states that just completely ignore it.

FEYERICK: The Environmental Protection Agency says progress is being made, but agrees more can be done.

CAROL BROWNER, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We are the first to recognize that we are going to need some additional pollution reductions to meet acid rain, and we are going to need the authority of Congress to do that.

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

Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Saranac Lake, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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