11 January 2008

Go Ask Alice (when the mercury is leaving)

The silvery liquid element "hydrargyrum" (Hg), better known as Mercury, is named for the fleet-footed Roman god - fond of flying quickly from place to place. Perhaps, like Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit, he was always running late for an important date.

Funny, since most of the 2617 tons of the slippery stuff stored at the former Somerville Army Quartermaster Depot in Hillsborough hasn't been anywhere in 50 years. Sixty percent of the nation's mercury stockpile is stored in those 75,880 flasks - and despite promises by the Defense Logistics agency and our representatives in Washington, it may be here for at least a little longer.

In February of 2006, the Defense National Stockpile Center announced plans to consolidate all of America's mercury at the Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Two years later, it's still here.

Hillsborough Mayor Anthony Ferrera has accused Nevada officials of "dragging their feet" by setting up roadblocks to the mercury transfer. Township Committeeman Carl Suraci is more reflective, saying that requests by the Nevada DEP are not unreasonable and that "if the roles were reversed, we would have taken the same path".

They are both correct in their assessment - but the thing is - we HAVE been on the receiving end of the mercury transfer. And we took it unawares.

In fact - Hillsborough officials were unaware that ANY mercury was being stored in Hillsborough until 2000, when the depot received a transfer of the mercury stockpile that was stored in Binghamton, New York. Hillsborough was not given any consideration at all in this transfer - the Pentagon just went about their business as if they were at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party - time to move the mercury, everyone go one seat to the left! - while the folks in Bingahmton were left wearing bigger grins than the Cheshire Cat.

Take heart fellow residents. The mercury will be slip sliding out of here eventually - after it is checked and double-checked - packed and double packed. And this whole episode will seem like it was some kind of terrifying wonderful crazy dream.

1 comment:

  1. As long as it's safe where it is now, let's take our time and make sure it's moved safely too. From what I recall, the storage containers here aren't leaking or in any danger of leaking. Even though people don't like the idea of mercury being stored here, the real danger will come in transporting so much mercury to a new location. I'm actually thankful that no one is rushing this process and making mistakes along the way.