Mercury likely will go to Texas, not Whitewater

The best place to store the nation’s stockpile of mercury is probably in Texas, the U.S. Department of Energy said.

The Energy Department listed Waste Control Specialists, a company in Andrews, Texas, as its preferred alternative to handle as many as 14,000 tons of mercury stored in various locations around the United States.

The department had listed the Grand Junction Disposal Site as one of seven potential storage sites for mercury, which no longer can be exported from the United States as of 2013.

The selection of the Texas site for the draft environmental impact statement on the project is not final, but it nonetheless was greeted enthusiastically by state and local officials.

Local officials argued against mercury storage at the site south of Whitewater, saying an agreement with the Energy Department prohibited storage of hazardous materials other than the uranium mill tailings already stored there.

Don Pettygrove, the Grand Junction resident who worked on the committee that worked out the original agreement with the Energy Department, said he was pleased to hear mercury is unlikely to be stored near Grand Junction, and a private company was tentatively chosen to deal with it.

“Private industry succeeds, finally,” Pettygrove said.

“I’m glad to hear that a promise made by the federal government to the Mesa County Commission and our citizens long ago will be kept,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, whose district includes the site.

The choice of another site “doesn’t really surprise me, but I’m glad to hear it,” Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland said.

Commissioner Craig Meis, who had supported the idea of assessing Grand Junction as a potential location, said he is not surprised “in light of the opposition that came out.”

Mayor Bruce Hill said he felt better upon learning of the development.

“Certainly we felt some concern about it being stored here, even though you trust that it’s being stored in a manner that’s appropriate,” Hill said.

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., and Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall, both Colorado Democrats, praised the decision. Salazar called it a “big win for the future of air and water quality on the Western Slope.”

Gov. Bill Ritter called the selection of the Texas site a “promising development” that averted an “unacceptable risk to communities, major waterways and air quality in Colorado.”

The Energy Department will conduct a public meeting in Grand Junction, as well as at the other potential sites, as it collects public comment on the draft environmental impact statement.


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