The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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July 11, 2013

Thermometer swap is aimed at lowering mercury in Lake Erie

Conneaut sewage plant behind plan to provide digital devices

CONNEAUT — Employees at Conneaut’s wastewater treatment plant, hoping to keep mercury from Lake Erie, is ready to exchange old thermometers for new electronic versions.

People who bring in a mercury-powered oral or outdoor thermometer will receive digital devices between 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on July 20, said Brian Bidwell, the plant’s maintenance supervisor. Visitors will also have a chance to tour the plant, located at the foot of Broad Street at the lakefront, he said.

The program was prompted in part by the plant’s inability to meet water quality limits for mercury, Linda Fee Oros, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman, said Wednesday. The city successfully applied to the OhioEPA for a variance, and in exchange agreed to launch a program to “remove (mercury) from the environment,” she said.

The city already does routine testing for mercury at various locations around town, Bidwell said. “This is another part of our plan,” he said.

Anticipating a good response to the program, plenty of digital thermometers have been ordered, Bidwell said. After July 20, mercury thermometers can be dropped off at the city health department at the Conneaut Human Resources Center, 327 Mill St., he said.

Over the years, most people have heard about mercury levels in the lake via warnings about fish consumption.

“Mercury in the lake is a concern,” said Mike Settles, OhioEPA spokesman. “A number of (treatment) plants had to reduce levels to meet limits, and (the thermometer program) is one way to meet that limit.”

People who wish to take a tour of the plant should wear long pants and closed-toe shoes, officials said.

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