Mercury storage at SRS opposed

Savannah River Site handles enough dangerous material already and shouldn't become a permanent home for the nation's unwanted mercury, opponents of the project said Thursday.

 

During a meeting to explore SRS as a potential home for 7,500 to 10,000 tons of mercury over the next 40 years, environmentalists and economic developers both lined up squarely against the idea.

The SRS Community Reuse Organization "does not support" housing the repository at SRS, said executive director Rick McLeod, who told Energy Department planners such a facility would be incompatible with the site's existing missions.

Susan Corbett, who heads South Carolina's 5,500-member Sierra Club chapter, agreed, saying the current effort to clean up a half century of radioactive waste from nuclear weapons production should remain the focus.

"We need all hands on deck for that mission," she said. "We don't want to become a storage site for more deadly, toxic materials here."

SRS is one of seven sites that could be chosen by DOE as a mercury repository.

Thursday's meeting, which drew about 20 people to North Augusta's new municipal building, was part of a process to devise an Environmental Impact Statement on the plan.

Tom Clements, regional coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said it would be wrong for SRS to establish permanent homes for more unwanted materials. "The mission of the site is cleanup and I feel the folks in Georgia and South Carolina would like to see it stay that way."

The need for such a repository is outlined in a 2008 law -- the Mercury Export Ban -- that requires DOE to designate a facility for the "long-term management and storage of elemental mercury generated within the U.S."

Much of the mercury to be stored comes from chlorine factories, waste recycling, gold mining and other industrial processes.

In addition to SRS, the department is evaluating Grand Junction Disposal Site in Grand Junction, Colo.; Hanford Site in Richland, Wash.; Hawthorne Army Depot in Hawthorne, Nev.; Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho; Kansas City Plant in Kansas City, Mo; and Waste Control Specialists in Andrews, Texas.

David Levenstein, the Energy Department's EIS document manager, said a draft EIS with evaluations of all seven potential sites will be available for public comment later this year. A site decision will be made in fall 2010.

Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or rob.pavey@augustachronicle.com.

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