Mercury Partnerships - Utility Companies

See Mercury in Power Plants for mercury-emitting power generation.

Quite often utility companies which provide gas, electricity, and telephone service own equipment either at their central offices or in the field that may contain mercury. 

Many pressure devices, such as switches, relays and transducers used to contain large quantities of mercury to modulate the flow of pressure into the utility systems.  In Washington State, where hydroelectric dams contain large turbines often manufactured many years ago, some control systems may also contain mercury containing devices. 

Since 2000, some of the Washington state private and public utilities have made an effort to replace mercury containing pressure devices with solid state ones, since they have minimal impact on human health and the environment and quite often perform more accurately and quickly. 

In 2003, when the Mercury Chemical Action Plan was implemented and the legislature passed the Mercury Education and Reduction Act, several utilities, including Seattle City Light, Puget Sound Energy and Avista contacted Ecology to determine their responsibilities under the Act.  Although utility switches, relays and transducers are not banned under MERA, they started planning replacement of these products. 

In 2006 the Department of Ecology also asked the Washington State Utility and Transportation Commission (WUTC) and the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (NWPCC) to help us reach public utilities and engage in a mercury products replacement plan.

Additional work with the Washington State utilities industry in 2009-2010 will be needed to confirm the success of such replacement plans.  Work includes inventory of plants, as well as operation and maintenance plans to ensure full replacement occurs.