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Acid Rain in New England

Acid Rain in New England

Crystal Lake and Barton Mountain, Barton, VT - Photographed by Ian Cohen  - Click for a larger image.

This page contains general information about acid rain in New England. It describes the effects, history, and causes of acid rain. It also looks at how we can reduce acid rain, and how well we have been doing. It includes references and websites which have more detailed information. There is also a list of contacts at EPA Headquarters, EPA New England, and the state environmental organizations.

Acid Rain occurs when pollutants emitted into the atmosphere dissolve in cloud droplets. The most important are sulfur and nitrogen. When these fall to Earth as rain or snow, they can affect the chemistry and biology of lakes, streams, forests, and other ecosystems. Acid Rain was first noticed in the 19th century, but was not considered a serious problem until the 1970s.

In 1990, Congress directed EPA to create the Acid Rain Program when it amended the Clean Air Act. EPA's Acid Rain Program has employed a "cap and trade" program to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2), a primary component of acid rain. The Acid Rain Program has required power plants, the largest single source of the pollutants which cause acid rain, to reduce their emissions of SO2 and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Since the start of the Acid Rain Program in 1995, the lower SO2 and NOx emission levels from the power sector have contributed to significant air quality and environmental and human health improvements.

Since 1995, EPA's Acid Rain Program has reduced SO2 emissions by over 5.5 million tons from 1990 levels, or about 35 percent of total emissions from the power sector. Compared to 1980 levels, SO2 emissions from power plants have dropped by more than 7 million tons, or about 41 percent. The Acid Rain Program has also cut NOx emissions by about 3 million tons from 1990 levels, so that emissions in 2005 were less than half the level anticipated without the program. Other efforts, such as the NOx Budget Trading Program in the eastern United States, also contributed significantly to this reduction.

These reductions have led to a measurable decrease in the concentrations of sulfates in rainwater. The National Atmospheric Deposition Program has observed about a 40% decrease in the amount of sulfate deposited by rain in New England. We have also seen a decrease in the amount of nitrates deposited by rainwater in New England.

These reductions have led to a measurable decrease in the concentrations of sulfates in rainwater. The National Atmospheric Deposition Program has observed about a 40% decrease in the amount of sulfate deposited by rain in New England. We have also seen a decrease in the amount of nitrates deposited by rainwater in New England.

Are the lakes and rivers in New England recovering? Presently we do not have a clear answer to this question. We have seen some hopeful signs, but it will take longer for these systems to fully recover. More time and more emissions reductions are needed before the lakes and rivers in New England will fully recover from the effects of acid rain.

Acid Rain is one of many environmental problems which can be eased if we reduce emission of pollutants into the atmosphere.

About Acid Rain:

Reference:

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