Ritter joins opposition to mercury shipments | AspenTimes.com

Ritter joins opposition to mercury shipments

Steven K. Paulson
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has joined the growing chorus of opposition to a U.S. Department of Energy proposal to ship thousands of tons of mercury to a waste storage site south of Grand Junction.

Ritter said he will convey his reservations about the proposal to the Department of Energy in a letter soon.

“Colorado’s Western Slope is no place for the federal government to deposit thousands of tons of mercury. The risks to ground and surface water are too great. The risks to our air quality are too great. The risks of transporting elemental mercury over long distances and on routes that run adjacent to or cross major water sources, such as the Colorado River, are too great,” Ritter said.

Ritter sided with opponents of the plan who testified at a hearing on Tuesday in Grand Junction that liquid mercury wastes should be stored in close proximity to where it is generated, rather than moving it to the Western Slope.

Colorado Health Department Director James Martin also opposed the Colorado site, telling federal regulators they would have to prove the facility would not hurt air and water quality before the state would allow the facility to be built in Colorado.

Martin said many of the routes to the disposal site cross the Colorado River, which could endanger water supplies for millions of people across the West. He said the federal government needs to mitigate the risk of accidents to a major waterway, and prove it can care for the wastes “into perpetuity.”

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Bill Levitan, director of compliance for the DOE’s office of environmental management, said potential contamination of the river would be included in the environmental impact statement, which is in the preliminary phases.

The hearing was the first of seven meetings by the U.S. Department of Energy involving a proposal to store 17,000 tons of hazardous mercury near a federal dump site for uranium wastes south of Grand Junction.

Other proposed sites and hearings include the Idaho National Laboratory, the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state, Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada, Kansas City Plant in Missouri, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

The DOE says it intends to have a mercury storage site selected and operational by 2013.

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