The Mercury Export Ban Act (MEBA) became law in 2008, intended to keep thousands of metric tons of elemental mercury stored safely at Department of Energy (DOE) facilities and unavailable to the commercial market.
The largest holders of elemental mercury in the United States are the Department of Defense (DOD) and DOE, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The domestic mining industry incidentally produces significant quantities of elemental mercury annually because of the beneficiation or processing of ores. Other commercial processes (e.g., chlor-alkali industry, recyclers, etc.) also result in the generation of elemental mercury. MEBA prohibits the sale, distribution, and transfer of elemental mercury held by federal agencies and outlines that it should remain safely stored. Implementation of MEBA requirements was effectively delayed until 2016 because of lack of funding.
Boston Government Services (BGS), as the managing partner of the BTP Services joint venture, was contracted in 2016 to evaluate and manage the responsible disposition of the highly hazardous waste stream. BGS reviewed the initial program status as of the end of 2013 and determined that re-baselining was needed due to downward projections for quantities of elemental mercury generation, changed conditions for mercury management and storage, subsequent disposition of legacy inventories, and legislative direction, including milestones for providing mercury management and storage capability. The BGS plan focused on four core areas to inform and guide the re-baselining effort:
- Environmental reviews – National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA): BGS scoped, prepared, and issued (draft and final) multiple NEPA documents including supplement analysis (SA), interim action determination (IAD), environmental assessment (EA), and supplemental environmental impact statements (SEIS) to address various potential federal mercury management and storage actions at both federal and commercial facilities.
- Technical, engineering, and design: BGS conducted permit and RCRA regulatory requirements crosswalk reviews and updated technical guidance documents for generators intending to send waste to DOE, including acceptable packaging, storage, and management (i.e., treatment and disposal) methods. Our team also aligned storage facility design specifications and functional requirements with updated mercury storage projections and needs, resulting in smaller facility footprints with functions aimed at receipt and storage.
- Cost estimating and fee structure: BGS developed scope and identified and estimated capital and O/M cost elements for managing and storing elemental mercury. The team also distinguished recoverable and non-recoverable costs (per MEBA) and created a fee structure, via DOE rulemaking, to collect a fee from facilities likely to deliver mercury for management and storage.
- Stakeholder interactions: BGS conducted outreach interactions (e.g., interviews, site visits, information exchanges, public meetings, hearings, and comment opportunities) with stakeholders (e.g., mining and chlor-alkali industry, other mercury generators, mercury recyclers and treatment, storage, and disposal (TSD) operators, federal and state regulators, and members of the public) interested in mercury management and storage. Meetings and information exchanges encompassed topics such as elemental mercury generation, satellite/short-term storage capabilities, TSD capabilities and options, and cost elements and compilation of the fee structure.
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