Mercury mistake avoided

It was certainly great to learn that the U.S. Department of Energy has finally concluded that a uranium mill tailings disposal site south of Whitewater in Mesa County is not an appropriate place for a national mercury disposal facility.

A final environmental impact statement, completed last month on where to store the federal government’s mercury waste, concluded the best of seven potential storage sites was at the Energy Department’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, N.M.

Among reasons for not choosing the site near Grand Junction are the facts that it is the only one of the seven sites that does not have adequate utilities and the only one not located in a previously disturbed industrialized area, according to the environmental report.

Those are certainly valid reasons not to place the mercury in Mesa County. But we continue to believe there is an even more important historical reason. As we noted back in 2009, when it was first revealed that the Mesa County site was being considered along with a half-dozen others, the Energy Department told this community back in the 1980s that the site near Whitewater would only be for disposing of uranium mill tailings, not for holding hazardous wastes such as mercury.

Whatever the reasons, however, we’re happy to learn that the site near Grand Junction appears to no longer be a contender for the mercury disposal. Adding “National mercury disposal site” to our local resume wouldn’t be helpful for a community stressing the advantages of its outdoor activities.


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