The state will use $400,000 from a legal settlement over air pollution to research new ways to combat acid rain damage to the Adirondacks, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said.
The money will fund scientific research on ways to restore the estimated 500 lakes and streams in the rugged mountain region that continue to suffer from acid rain damage.
The harmful precipitation, largely attributed to emissions from Midwestern power plants, has damaged tree species and killed off fish species in some lakes.
The new Adirondack Acid Rain Recovery Program will be administered by the state Energy Research and Development Authority.
Funding will come Cinergy Corp., now Duke Energy Corp., as part of a multistate settlement in federal court over violations of the federal Clean Air Act.
“As progress is made in reducing acid rain pollution, hundreds of lakes and streams in the Adirondacks are still struggling to recover from this pollution,” Schneiderman said. “The Adirondack Acid Rain Recovery Program will speed the recovery of hundreds of lakes and streams by identifying the most effective tools available for reversing the damages of acid rain.”
Acid rain has decreased significantly since 1990 due to better controls on air pollution and new emissions technologies, but scientists believe that over 500 water bodies in the Adirondacks continue to suffer from damage.
The program will provide funding to test newly designed methods for neutralizing acidity in soils and waters, Schneiderman said.
Acid rain is caused when air emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide interact in the atmosphere to form acid compounds that then fall back to earth as rain.
The Adirondacks have been particularly vulnerable because of being downwind from Midwestern coal-fired power plants, and also because of their high altitudes and thin soils. Acidification of soils damages tree species, while acidification of waters harms the growth and survival of fish and other aquatic organisms.
Schneiderman’s announcement won praise from environmental organizations, including the Adirondack Mountain Club, The Nature Conservancy, the Adirondack Council and Trout Unlimited.
“The launch of the Adirondacks Acid Rain Recovery Program marks a significant milestone in the long battle to protect the Adirondacks from the destruction caused by acid rain,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club.
“Acid rain has had a severe impact on all of New York’s watersheds, but especially on the cold waters of the Adirondacks, where some of the last populations of native brook trout still survive,” said Ron Urban, chairman of the New York Council of Trout Unlimited.
The funding was obtained in a 2010 federal court settlement with Cinergy Corp. over violations of the Clean Air Act for having failed to install technology for controlling sulfur dioxide emissions at its Midwestern coal-fired plants.