NC to monitor toxic emissions more closely
North Carolina has a new air quality rule that cracks down on toxic pollutants from factories and power plants across the state. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: The rule applies to about a hundred pollutants like mercury and benzene. North Carolina calls them "air toxics" and they're regulated differently than carbon dioxide or nitrogen oxide. "But often times they can be harmful at much lower levels than primary air pollutants," says Tom Mather of the NC Division of Air Quality. A new regulation passed by the state's Environmental Management Commission requires companies to evaluate the amount of toxic emissions coming from their boilers and upgrade their equipment if they don't meet the state's standards. Until now, Mather says power plants and other businesses have been pumping these "air toxics" out of their boilers with few restrictions. The Manufacturers and Chemical Industry Council of North Carolina says the cost of upgrade could be significant and urged the state to wait until the Federal Environmental Protection Agency makes a rule for boilers instead. But Mather says the state is tired of waiting for the EPA to make its move. "It is a big concern because combustion sources or boilers are very widespread," says Mather. "We know there's at least 1800 combustion sources around the state." Mather says power companies are the primary source of combustion-related pollutants in North Carolina. Companies with existing boilers will have five years to make sure they meet the new rule. That includes Duke's new unit at Cliffside, since it is already under construction. New boilers or expanded combustion operations will have to meet the standards first.