The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) Monday, June 4th, for its commitment to remove over 2,200 pounds of mercury at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), as part of the EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities program.

LAWA is the agency that operates the City of Los Angeles’s four airports, including LAX.

LAX becomes the first commercial airport in the nation to voluntarily reduce mercury through the EPA’s initiative, officials said.

“Los Angeles World Airports’ participation in the EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities program will remove thousands of pounds of hazardous mercury from our environment,” said Wayne Nastri, regional administrator for the EPA’s Pacific and Southwest office. “LAX will set an outstanding example of responsible environmental stewardship.”

By December, airport officials plan to remove the mercury flow meters — instruments measuring the flow of liquid or gas — from the LAX Central Utilities Plant and replace them with mercury-free electronic transmitters, thus eliminating 2,200 pounds of mercury, equal to the mercury in one million household fever thermometers.

“Los Angeles is committed to improving the quality of life for all of its citizens and visitors,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. “The voluntary removal and proper disposal of thousands of pounds of mercury at Los Angeles International Airport’s Central Utility Plant contributes toward LAX continuing its leadership as one of the nation’s greenest airports.”

“Los Angeles World Airports continually seeks ways to improve on our extensive record of managing and mitigating impacts from airport operations through various ‘green airport’ programs,” added Gina Marie Lindsey, recently appointed executive director of the airport agency. “The LAX Central Utilities Plant is an environmentally friendly facility that includes an energy-saving system, which simultaneously co-generates electrical power and steam to heat and air-condition LAX’s passenger terminals and offices.”

Nastri presented a plaque to Lindsey, LAWA deputy executive director for environmental affairs Roger Johnson and LAWA Construction & Maintenance Services director Ralph Morones during the June 4th meeting of the Board of Airport Commissioners.

The National Partnership for Environmental Priorities encourages public and private organizations to form partnerships with the EPA to reduce the use or release of toxic chemicals, including cadmium, lead and mercury. Mercury is a chemical of concern for the EPA because it is a cumulative poison that causes kidney and brain damage.

Preventing mercury from getting into plants and wildlife reduces the potential for people and animals to ingest this toxin when eating shellfish and fish, such as swordfish, albacore tuna, shark and mackerel.

The EPA’s goal is to partner with industries, municipalities and federal facilities to reduce the use or release of four million pounds of priority chemicals by 2011.

Information on the EPA’s National Partnership for Environmental Priorities Program, waste/minimize/partnership.htm/.