Hawthorne mercury dump stalled

The town of Hillsborough, N.J., is so anxious to dump its stocks of toxic mercury on Nevada that it has hired a lawyer to force the Bush administration to get the job done.

The administration designated Hawthorne in Nevada’s Mineral County as the dump site on Feb. 2, 2006, after carefully concealing the existence of a site search from state officials (Public notice, RN&R, March 23, 2006). Mercury from several sites around the nation is supposed to be consolidated in Hawthorne.

But 2,615 metric tons of mercury remains stored at the General Services Administration depot in Hillsborough, and on Sept. 9 Mayor Anthony Ferrera announced that the town government had asked its attorney to sue the feds in order to light a fire under the agency.

Hillsborough Township health officer Glen Belnay said Nevada “continues to find reasons to delay the shipment,” which seems to conflict with his account of everything the state and feds have done to get ready for shipment. According to the New Brunswick Home News Tribune, he said the following steps have been taken:

• A “Process Hazard Analysis” has been done to review equipment, training, and storage procedures and identify risks and remedies for risk.

• Fourteen warehouses in Hawthorne have been upgraded with fire detection and suppression systems, and security systems.

• Employees have received emergency response training.

• A $5 million inspection of 75,880 mercury flasks and 12,656 was done in Hillsborough, with Nevada environmental regulators participating, to assure safe transport.

• The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection contracted the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to do ultrasonic testing, radiography and visual weld inspections of the mercury flasks.

• The transportation route of the mercury, in closed tractor trailers and tracked by Global Positioning Satellite, has been decided, with trained hazardous materials drivers.

“Tax dollars have been spent on a plan that says moving the mercury is in the national interest,” said Hillsborough Township Committeemember Carl Suraci, a former mayor. “And tax dollars have been spent to give Nevada a Taj Mahal for the storage of the mercury. The location is in the middle of the desert, and Nevada was fully involved in the final EIS process.” Officials in Nevada said they were involved in the EIS process, but the site selection process was surreptitiously conducted.