16. ECOLOGICAL THREAT OF ACID RAIN IS GROWING

The threat of widespread ecological disaster from acid rain was one of the ten "best censored" stories in 1977 when its disastrous environmental effects of most parts of the east coast of the U.S. were cited. Since then the problem has increased significantly and yet the mass media have not put it on the national agenda.

On March 19, 1930, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told a Senate subcommittee that "The impact of acid rain on the nation's lakes, forests, and croplands is getting worse." What was seen by some to be a regional problem in the United States in 1977, today is a national problem.

The major cause of acid rain in the eastern states is sulfuric acid from coal-fired power plants and smelters in large industrial complexes. In western states, it is mostly caused by nitric acid, created by automobile exhaust.

170 lakes and ponds in New York's Adirondack Mountains can no longer support fish life because of acid rain; one fourth of the lakes in a legally protected wilderness area in northern Minnesota will be too acidic to support fish life if current levels of acid rain continue; the level of dangerous heavy metals such as mercury is increasing in the drinking water supplies and a study is now underway to determine the danger that acid rain poses to hundred of California's pristine mountain lakes in the Sierra.

The EPA said the problem is not limited to lakes and ponds, but extends to agricultural land and forests as well as to buildings and monuments in urban areas.

Technological innovations to reduce the emissions which contribute to acid rain have been thwarted by pressure from special interest groups on Congress to avoid costly environmental regulatory initiatives.

Stephen Gage of the EPA said the acid rain problem is an alarming demonstration that "whatever goes up must come down, only what comes down is far worse."

The continuing lack of media exposure of the potential ecological disaster resulting from acid rain and the failure of Congress to implement solutions qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best censored" stories of 1979.

SOURCES:

Science, June 15, 1979, "Uncontrolled SO Emissions Bring Acid Rain;" New York Times, Oct. 7, 1979, "Experts Call 'Acid Rain' Grow ° Problem in U.S.;" US News & world Report, Nov. 19, 1979, "The Growing Furor Over Acid Rain;" UPI, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 2, 1980, "Danger of Acid Rain to Sierra Studied;" AP & UPI, San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 20, 1980, "Acid Rain Peril Growing, Says EPA.'°