Delegates: No mercury in western Colorado

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu could remove Grand Junction from the list of potential mercury-storage sites, and he should do just that, Colorado’s senators and a congressman said.

“We believe there is abundant evidence to characterize this proposal as unreasonable and respectfully urge that you eliminate from further review the alternative for storing mercury in Mesa County,” the Colorado officials said.

Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. John Salazar, all Democrats, sent the letter Thursday.

The Energy Department is in the middle of a scoping process looking at seven potential sites around the nation for storage of the nation’s mercury for the next 40 years.

Legislation passed last year requires the federal government to stop exporting mercury by 2013 to prevent it from seeping into the environment, especially in developing countries.

The Mesa County Commission has urged the Energy Department to look elsewhere for a place to store the element, which is considered a hazardous substance.

The Energy Department signed an agreement promising to store no other radioactive wastes in the Grand Junction Disposal Site 18 miles south of town, where about 4.4 million cubic yards of radioactive materials are buried in a 98-acre disposal cell.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter also wrote to Chu, urging that he identify other locations.

Transporting mercury to Grand Junction poses unacceptable threats, Udall said in a statement accompanying the release of the delegation’s letter.

“The potential risks to area residents and our environment are too high for us to support this proposal, and it doesn’t make any sense for it to move forward,” Bennet said in the joint statement.

“Storing mercury in Mesa County is a bad idea, and I believe the secretary should remove the region from consideration,” Salazar said.


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