Acid Rain, Ozone Pollution Threaten Eastern Forests

Jennifer Tetterton, Appalachian Voices

Eastern forests, particularly in high elevations, continue to decline as a result of acid rain deposition and ozone pollution. In some areas, over 35% of the trees have been killed, streams cannot maintain native species, and the problem is getting worse, not better, despite improvements to the Clean Air Act in 1990.

These were some of the troubling findings at a recent conference "Acid Rain, Ozone, and the Great Eastern Forests" held at Duke University March 27. Sponsored by Appalachian Voices, the conference included presentations by scientists and EPA officials.

Along ridges of the Appalachian Mountains (from Maine to Georgia and Alabama) trees of every major species are in decline. Symptoms include very slow growth, early leaf drop, snap-offs, root decay, discolored foliage and premature death. Ground-level ozone and acid rain are the likely culprits. These pollutants acidify the soil and cause a deadly chain reaction. The nutrients are leached from the soil, toxic aluminum poisons the trees, and the health of the forests declines. The the weakened trees become much more vulnerable to drought, frost and pest attacks. The majority of these pollutants are caused by coal-burning plants of the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys upwind from the mountains.

Also an increasing number of Eastern lakes and streams have become acidic and support almost no life. Additionally regional haze is clouding the view, because of floating particles of sulfer dioxide emissions. Ozone smog also causes respitory problems, especially in children, asthmatics and the elderly.

Fortunately, there is something we can do about the problem. Please write your Representative and Senators and urge them to support the "Acid Deposition and Ozone Control Act" (S.172/H.R. 25), sponsored by Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) and Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) which calls for power plants to make a 70% reduction in nitrogen oxides and an additional 50% cut in sulfur dioxide. These emissions cause acid rain, ozone smog and haze. Write to: Your Represenative, U.S. House of Represenatives, Washington, D.C. 20515 or Your Senator, U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510.

For more information contact Jennifer Tetterton, Appalachian Voices at

828/262-1500 or