Acid rain has killed fish in hundreds of Adirondack lakes, including some in Fulton County and southern Hamilton County.
Acid rain stems largely from pollutants emitted from power plants in some states. The pollutants can drift for hundreds of miles before being deposited by precipitation. The Adirondack, Catskill and Appalachian mountain regions have been hit hard by acid rain because prevailing winds carry the pollution onto those mountain regions. The pollutants - including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen - can damage trees and kill fish.
Fortunately, the acid-rain trend appears to be slowly changing thanks to government-ordered pollution controls on power-plant smokestacks over the past two decades.
Acid rain falling on the Adirondack Park has decreased by about 60 percent since 1990, according to the Adirondack Council, an environmental organization that fights acid rain. The 2011 National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program predicts new pollution rules will reduce the number of Adirondack lakes that are too acidic for their native life from 33 percent in 1990 to about 8 percent by 2050, the council reported earlier this year.
The federal Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 and regulations put into place by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2010 are helping to alleviate the problem in the Adirondacks. The assessment program shows power companies spent $3 billion complying with pollution rules in 2010 and the public realized benefits of between $170 billion and $430 billion as a result of those investments. Savings include 12,000 avoided deaths per year; avoided hospitalizations, treatments and drugs for people with lung illnesses; avoided costs in lost productivity in the workforce; avoided insurance claims; and less damage to buildings, monuments, cars and bridges, according to the report.
The report also stated 90 percent of Adirondack lakes studied showed decreased sulfur content.
It's important for the government to ensure the emission-control laws remain intact so the Adirondacks and other regions can continue to rebound from the devastating effects of acid rain.