Today, U.S. Congressman John Salazar, U.S. Senator Mark Udall and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet announced that the U.S. Department of Energy has chosen Andrews, TX as the preferred alternative for a proposed mercury storage facility instead of Grand Junction, Colorado. In September, Congressman Salazar, Senator Bennet and Senator Udall asked Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu not to locate the proposed mercury storage facility in Grand Junction. After evaluating seven sites around the country as possible locations for the facility, the Department has identified the Waste Control Specialists (WCS) facility near Andrews, Texas, as its preferred alternative.
The decision comes as the Department of Energy prepares to file the Draft Long-Term Management and Storage of Elemental Mercury Environmental Impact Statement (Draft Mercury Storage EIS) with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on January 22, 2010. This will result in EPA publishing a Notice of Availability in the Federal Register on
January 29, 2010, initiating a 60-day public comment period. Environmental impacts of this project to the site and surrounding areas have been analyzed and determined to be negligible to minimal.
On the decision, Congressman Salazar offered the following statement:
"This is a big win for the future of air and water quality on the West Slope. Local officials spoke up in major opposition to this as did Senators Bennet, Udall and I. I appreciate the Department of Energy's decision to respect the wishes of Mesa County and Western Colorado in this matter."
On the decision, Senator Udall offered the following statement:
"This was the right decision by the Department of Energy," Senator Udall said. "There has been overwhelming opposition to this proposal in the community. I'm glad the DOE considered that with its actions today, and I'm going to keep working to ensure the wishes of the people of the Western Slope are honored and the facility is not built in Mesa County. I think there are many other great uses for this land."
On the decision, Senator Bennet offered the following statement:
"Allowing this proposal to move forward would have unnecessarily and unfairly put public health and the environment at risk. The threats posed by this proposal were simply far too great to overlook, and the DOE was right to listen to the concerns of the people of Mesa County and pursue sites more fit for mercury storage."
The WCS site is located in a remote, lightly populated area that has been extensively characterized and studied due to the wide range of waste management activities carried on there. The storage of mercury would be compatible with existing waste management activities, land use plans, and regulatory agreements.
DOE published a Notice of Intent to prepare the Mercury Storage EIS in the July 2, 2009 Federal Register (74 FR 31723); this began the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process. DOE held scoping meetings last year at locations in the vicinity of all sites that were under consideration.
The seven sites of consideration are:
1) DOE Grand Junction Disposal Site, Grand Junction, CO;
2) DOE Hanford Site, Richland, WA;
3) Hawthorne Army Depot, Hawthorne, NV;
4) DOE Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho Falls, ID;
5) DOE Kansas City Plant, Kansas City, MO;
6) DOE Savannah River Site, Aiken, SC; and
7) Waste Control Specialists, LLC, Andrews, TX.