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FLORIDA SUGAR CANE LEAGUE URGES STATE AGENCIES TO STUDY SMOKE FROM SUGARCANE BURNING, SAWGRASS FIRES, AND MUNICIPAL WASTE INCINERATORS

 FLORIDA SUGAR CANE LEAGUE URGES STATE AGENCIES TO STUDY SMOKE FROM
 SUGARCANE BURNING, SAWGRASS FIRES, AND MUNICIPAL WASTE INCINERATORS
 CLEWISTON, Fla., Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The Florida Sugar Cane League today invited the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and the State Division of Forestry to formally examine smoke from sugarcane field burning to determine its mercury content, if any. The League also believes that similar studies of sawgrass fires and waste incinerators are necessary.
 Andy Rackley, vice president and general manager of the League, pledged that League members, who are responsible for farming more than 80 percent of the sugarcane grown in the Everglades Agricultural Area, would cooperate fully in the studies he proposed. Rackley urged the action by the state agencies "to give confidence to our neighbors that farmers are not causing any harm to the environment through their farming practices, and to further investigate all potential sources of atmospheric mercury in South Florida."
 Each harvest season, from October through March, sugarcane fields are burned to clear thick leaves and underbrush. The burning is required to permit harvesting of the crop and to reduce the amount of leaves brought to the mills for processing. The burning of the fields is regulated by the State Division of Forestry.
 In past years some residents of coastal areas had complained about smoke which occasionally appeared over some residential areas during the winter months. In response to those complaints, this year, the Division of Forestry established new regulations outlining wind conditions under which burning would be allowed to minimize the potential of smoke being a nuisance to coastal areas. Under the new regulations, burning is not allowed in zones near urban areas if the wind is blowing toward the urban areas. Sugar Cane League members said the new regulations caused some hardship in harvesting the crop, but supported the regulations in "a spirit of being good neighbors to non-farming areas."
 Rackley said, "All available data indicates the smoke contains nothing harmful. However, the feeling still persists in some people that the smoke from sugarcane fields might be contributing atmospheric mercury. We believe it is important to put this matter to rest once and for all. In order to do this, we believe mercury levels in sugarcane burning, sawgrass fires and municipal waste incinerators should be studied.
 "League members have established a series of monitoring stations between the sugarcane fields and populated coastal areas and are sponsoring studies to analyze the contents of sugarcane field smoke," Rackley said. "We will make the results of those studies available to the public when they are completed.
 "However," Rackley said, "we believe the state should also undertake studies of the smoke from sugarcane burning, sawgrass fires and municipal waste incinerators so that the public can have confidence that every reasonable investigation is being made to determine the source of atmospheric mercury."
 Rackley said that the League will cooperate fully with studies done by state agencies and assist in whatever way would be helpful. He said he hoped the studies would begin soon in order to have sufficient time to complete them before the end of the harvest, usually at the end of March.
 -0- 1/13/92
 /CONTACT: Otis Wragg or Ray Casas of Wragg & Casas, 305-372-1234, for the Florida Sugar Cane League/ CO: Florida Sugar Cane League ST: Florida IN: SU:


AW-JJ -- FL011 -- 9162 01/13/92 14:59 EST
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Date:Jan 13, 1992
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