Mercury, an element traced to a plethora of health problems, including death, is difficult to dispose of. The federal government is currently scouting out seven states for a new holding facility to contain up to 17,000 tons of the nation's surplus mercury, with Texas among them.
The United States used to export its excess mercury to developing countries with lower environmental restrictions, but that will change under a bill then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama sponsored that will ban the practice beginning in 2013. President Bush signed the bill.
Now the government is looking for states who wouldn't mind having an olympic-swimming-pool's worth of mercury in their back yard. They are scouting: Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Missouri and South Carolina.
However, Texas’ relative paucity of environmental activism could make it an attractive option. Other states have already taken action to stop the mercury from coming to them.
Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter has already said that his state would not allow it, and a Kansas City Council approved a resolution protesting a plan to store it at a complex near Kansas City.
Officials from Colorado and Nevada have also spoken up.
Texas, on the other hand, hasn’t plucked up a defense yet at all. In fact, a waste company based in Dallas has expressed interest in storing the mercury at a landfill near Andrews in West Texas, and it has the permits to do so.
Holly LaFon has written and worked for various local publications including D Magazine and Examiner.