Cotter Corp, Inc. announces plan to mitigate uranium contaminated groundwater at the Schwartzwalder mine

March 24, 2013

schwartzwalderminelocationmap

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter Corp. is preparing to brew a multimillion-gallon uranium cocktail in a mine shaft west of Denver — an innovation aimed at ending a threat to city water supplies.

If all goes well, mixing molasses and alcohol into a stream of filtered water pumped from the mine and discharged down Ralston Creek, and then re-injecting that mix into Cotter’s 2,000-foot-deep Schwartzwalder mine, will immobilize uranium tainting the creek. Bacteria inside the mine will devour the molasses and dissolved uranium, creating solid uranium particles that will settle at the base of the mine, Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We believe we can get the water to such a state that it would be OK to let it come out,” Hamrick said in an interview. “We’re using our best efforts to do this as quickly as we can.” Bacteria “will eat the uranium to live, and part of what they excrete, or the byproduct of that, is a solid particle that will fall down to the bottom of the mine.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Cotter’s project and state regulators were reviewing it.

Such “bioremediation” would save Cotter tens of millions of dollars as an alternative to perpetually pumping out and treating mine water laced with uranium — which reached concentrations as high as 24,000 parts per billion inside the mine shaft, well above the 30 ppb federal drinking water standard…

“The potential is there for this process to work,” EPA environmental scientist Craig Boomgaard said. “Another form of it is being done at Asarco’s smelter in Denver. Is it solution? I can’t say. But in certain cases it is demonstrated to be effective.”[...]

State regulators’ order to pump out and treat uranium-laced water from the mine “has been in place for quite a while and the mine pool drawdown has not yet commenced,” the statement said. “We are eager to see the company move forward.”

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.


CDPHE and Cotter Corp agree on a plan to end the Schwartzwalder Mine’s pollution of Ralston Creek with uranium — pumping and treating groundwater

October 3, 2012

schwartzwalderminedivisionofreclamationminingandsafety.jpg

The two parties have agreed on the geology and now believe they can pump enough water to lower the levels of water in the main shaft 150 feet below the Ralston Creek alluvium. The same approach being used at California Gulch; the perpetual pumping and treating of groundwater. Proof that the energy costs for uranium extraction sometimes never end. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The latest test data show that highly toxic water in the Schwartzwalder mine’s main shaft seeps underground into Ralston Creek, which flows to Ralston Reservoir.

A settlement deal requires Cotter to pump and treat millions of gallons of water and lower the level to 150 feet below the top of that 2,000-foot-deep shaft. This is intended to prevent uranium — in concentrations up to 1,000 times the health standard — from contaminating water supplies.

Cotter also must provide $3.5 million in financial assurance money to ensure cleanup of the mine west of Denver is done and pay a civil penalty of $55,000. Another $39,000 in penalties is to be waived.

The deal, approved by state regulators, ends Cotter’s lawsuits challenging state orders to clean up the mine and the creek. A state judge ruled in favor of regulators and Cotter appealed the decision.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


CDPHE: Cotter Corp diverted Ralston Creek past its Schwartzwalder Mine to minimize discharge of uranium into creek

April 12, 2012

schwartwalderpipelinecotterralstoncreek.jpg

From TheDenverChannel.com (Thomas Hendrick):

The Colorado health department had ordered Cotter to divert water from the creek away from the Schwartzwalder Mine so that pollutants wouldn’t get into the creek water. Ralston Creek flows into a Denver Water reservoir that provides drinking water.

The health department’s water quality control division says Cotter completed a pipeline Tuesday to divert up to 8 cubic feet per second of creek flows past the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cotter plans to route Ralston Creek through a temporary pipeline around the Schwartzwalder Mine

March 6, 2012

schwartzwalderminelocationmap.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Nobody wants Cotter Corp.’s re-routing of Ralston Creek to be permanent. Federal biologists say the pine-studded creek corridor through a picturesque canyon is habitat for the endangered Preble’s Jumping Mouse

Cotter work crews on Monday were completing a 21-foot-deep concrete-and-steel structure designed to channel all surface and shallow groundwater through an 18-inch-diameter black plastic pipeline running 4,000 feet around the Schwartzwalder Mine, once the nation’s largest underground uranium mine. As a condition of its 10-year federal permit, Cotter must irrigate the creek corridor to ensure that trees and wildlife survive. “This is a temporary bypass that will allow us to do the permanent fix,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We really are trying to do the right thing here.”[...]

Cotter also has agreed to use excavators and seven sump pumps to remove uranium from contaminated groundwater near the mine’s 2,000-foot-deep shaft, where uranium levels top 24,000 ppb. The sump pumping and subsequent treatment of contaminated groundwater over the past 18 months has removed about 1 ton of uranium that otherwise could have flowed into metro drinking water. That uranium sits in a guarded facility here until it can be trucked to a radioactive-waste dump…

State mining inspectors say uranium-laced water inside the mine shaft “is finding other ways out of the mine pool” and into groundwater and the creek beyond the mine. “The only way to fix that,” [Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado's Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety] said, “is to draw down the mine pool and treat it.”

Cotter favors a different approach. While Hamrick acknowledged there may be some underground pathways between the mine shaft and Ralston Creek, he and Cotter health physicist Randy Whicker on Monday said pumping toxic water out of the mine makes no sense.
Such a project would require construction of a large plastic-lined waste pond, with the cost likely to exceed $10 million, and perpetual pumping of groundwater that would continue to fill up the mine shaft and turn toxic through contact with exposed minerals.

Better, Cotter contends, would be to keep the super-toxic water inside the mine shaft and treat it in there. Mixing molasses and alcohol into uranium-laced water would cause bacteria already present inside the mine shaft to multiply, Hamrick and Whicker said. These bacteria would bond with uranium particles, separating uranium from water so that it could settle deep underground.

More nuclear coverage here. More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here.


Cotter Corp hopes to sell uranium that is being collected from groundwater sump pumps at the Schwartzwalder Mine

November 11, 2011

schwartzwalderminelocationmap.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The uranium west of Denver “is not as concentrated as yellowcake” but “is considered source material for licensing purposes,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said, estimating the value at around $50 a pound. Cotter would like to sell the uranium, Hamrick said. He said the uranium poses little risk. For anybody trying to obtain uranium illegally, “there would be easier low- hanging fruit than us,” he said.

The uranium was collected from tainted groundwater by 10 sump pumps Cotter installed along Ralston Creek, below the mine. The uranium and other captured contaminants are removed before water is pumped into the creek, which flows into a Denver drinking-water-supply reservoir for 1.3 million metro residents.

In an Oct. 11 letter to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, Cotter officials said 1,440 pounds of uranium had been removed as of Sept. 16 and was stored at the mine. They also disclosed “elevated concentrations of uranium in alluvial groundwater near the Old Emergency Discharge Pond” near the mine.

State mining regulators ordered Cotter to pump out and treat contaminated water in the mine shaft. Cotter challenged the state orders, and Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt recently ruled in favor of the state. Cotter officials now contend they can clean Ralston Creek simply by relying on their newly expanded pumping system. “Cotter has utilized intensive monitoring efforts and data evaluations to aggressively develop and implement measures to expand capture/treatment of alluvial groundwater in order to improve water quality in Ralston Creek as soon as possible,” the company’s letter said. The sump system has been effective, “significantly increasing capture and generally reducing levels in the creek.”

The system relies on an ion-exchange process using resin beads that the uranium gloms onto to remove it from water. Cotter switches out the loaded resin beads and uses the tanks the resin arrives in to store extracted uranium.

More nuclear coverage here and here


Clear Creek watershed: Cotter Corp promises to clean up discharges from the Schwartzwalder mine

October 13, 2011

schwartzwalderminelocationmap.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“Whatever the courts tell us to do, we will do,” Cotter president Amory Quinn said in a telephone interview from San Diego. “We will follow the letter of the law. If they demand we pump and treat, I guess we will pump and treat.” He did not commit to a timetable for that cleanup, though a creek-diversion pipe around the mine should be done by Jan. 31…

“We look forward to seeing Cotter’s plans and financial warranties for complying with the board orders,” Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety director Loretta Pineda said. Denver District Court Judge Robert Hyatt recently ruled in favor of state mining regulators in one of two lawsuits Cotter filed challenging orders to clean up the Schwartzwalder mine. That decision clears the way for removal of contaminated mine water and the posting of sufficient bond money to protect Ralston Creek, which flows into a Denver drinking-water-supply reservoir.

A decision is expected soon on Cotter’s second lawsuit, which challenges Colorado’s ability to enforce orders. Colorado Department of Natural Resources officials say this decision will help define what the state can do when companies defy legally valid orders.

On Wednesday, Quinn pointed out that Cotter has installed a sump system along Ralston Creek, below the mine. This apparently has reduced the concentrations of uranium entering the creek. Data provided by state officials shows readings ranging from 713 parts per billion in February to 39 in June. In July, the most recent reading available, the level had increased to 89 parts per billion. The state limit is 30 parts per billion. “We’re making that standard periodically,” Quinn said. But low flows in the creek during dry months, he said, result in uranium concentrations that are higher.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado’s Division of Mining Reclamation and Safety on Cotter Corp and the Schwartzwalder Mine: ‘I want to get this remediated. If Cotter wants to continue to fight this in court, that’s up to them’

October 4, 2011

schwartzwalderminelocationmap.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“I want to get this remediated. If Cotter wants to continue to fight this in court, that’s up to them,” said Loretta Pineda, director of Colorado’s Division of Mining Reclamation and Safety. “We’re rapidly losing another construction season. … Cotter could at least be doing work on a diversion.”[...]

Cotter last year filed a lawsuit accusing regulators of abusing their discretion with orders to clean up Schwartzwalder. But Friday, a Denver District Court judge ruled that Colorado’s Mined Land Reclamation Board was correct to order the de-watering of the 2,000-foot mine shaft and impose penalties. Earlier in the week, state health officials ordered Cotter to divert creek water around the mine and find the source of the contamination.

Buoyed by the Friday ruling, state regulators met with state Attorney General John Suthers’ staff Monday about their possible next steps…

In 2007, a state mining inspector detected the water contamination. About two years ago, the state officials began raising concerns, and last year they started pressing for a cleanup. Cotter has argued that toxic groundwater filling its 2,000-foot-deep mine shaft is not connected to Ralston Creek.

The health department order last week would require Cotter to install a concrete wall and to funnel water into a pipe that would carry Ralston Creek around the mine and then, below the mine, back toward Ralston Reservoir. It’s a temporary solution until a pump-and-treat operation is set up…

…state law requires companies to post sufficient bond money to guarantee that cleanup work will be done without falling to taxpayers. But the bond posted for Schwartzwalder is not enough to cover costs of pumping and treating uranium-laced water from the mine, state mining inspector Tony Waldron said. State officials said they’ll press now for a larger bond as well as de-watering of the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt rules in favor of Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board with regard to the Schwartzwalder Mine

October 1, 2011

schwartzwalderminedivisionofreclamationminingandsafety.jpg

From The Denver Post:

The decision by Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt cited “an ample evidentiary basis” for the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board’s findings…State inspectors several years ago discovered the problem: that uranium in the mine shaft reached up to 1,000 times the state standard, with contaminants rising to the rim of the shaft. It wasn’t until April 2010 that mining regulators ordered Cotter to remove the contamination by draining the mine. On Tuesday, state health officials ordered Cotter to divert creek water away the mine and find the source of the contamination.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter ordered to build bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine

September 29, 2011

schwartzwalderminelocationmap.jpg

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (Mark Salley):

On Tuesday, the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment amended its June 1, 2010 notice of violation/cease and desist order, and required Cotter Corporation to build a bypass pipeline at its Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County to minimize the discharge of uranium-laden water into Ralston Creek.

Schwartzwalder Mine is an underground uranium mine near Golden that opened in about 1953 and was acquired by Cotter in 1966. Cotter operated the mine from 1966 until 2000 when mining operations ceased.

The Water Quality Control Division learned in 2010 that discharge from the mine property contained elevated levels of uranium that exceed surface water standards under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act.

Cotter completed the majority of the corrective actions required by the June order, but discharges of uranium and other mine-related pollutants to groundwater and surface water from the facility have continued.

Water sampling at the site from June 2010 through July 2011 show concentrations of uranium in the groundwater and surface water that continue to cause or contribute to an exceedance of the 30 micrograms per liter stream standard.

The amended order dated Sept. 27 requires Cotter to submit a plan to the department no later than Oct. 7 for the design and construction of the temporary structure (i.e., pipeline) that will divert Ralston Creek steam flows past the Schwartzwalder facility. Construction is to be substantially completed by Jan. 31, 2012.

The amendment to the June 1 order further requires Cotter to evaluate and enhance its groundwater capture and treatment system and to submit a plan and time schedule for the
aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources at the mine.

Steve Gunderson, director of the state’s Water Quality Control Division, said the department has continued to work closely with the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to regulate the Schwartzwalder facility.

Gunderson said, “While Cotter implemented the majority of the corrective actions required in our June order, pollutants are continuing to reach the creek. This step is necessary to help protect groundwater and surface water.

“As the agency that regulates drinking water for the state, we also continue to work with public drinking water systems that rely on waters from Ralston Creek,” said Gunderson. “Those three providers (Denver Water, City of Arvada, and North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District) continue to serve drinking water to their customers that meets safe drinking water standards. Although drainage from Schwartzwalder has continued to reach the surface waters of Ralston Creek, the drinking water from those systems remains safe for consumption as a result of downstream attenuation at Ralston Reservoir and Blunn Reservoir, and treatment techniques utilized by the public water systems.”

More coverage from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Cotter Corp., which owns the defunct Schwartzwalder Mine in Jefferson County, has until Oct. 7 to submit a design- and-construction plan for a bypass pipeline. That pipeline is to be “substantially completed” by Jan. 31. Additionally, Cotter is required to submit a plan and time schedule for the “aggressive removal or containment of all groundwater and surface water pollutant sources” at the mine…

On Wednesday, the state said the company had “completed the majority of corrective actions” but added the pipeline requirement after it became clear pollutants were still reaching the creek…

Cotter has had numerous problems with the state over the years. Most recently, the company filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Mined Lands Reclamation Board, accusing it of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat the uranium-tainted water in its mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado and Cotter, Corp don’t agree on cleanup at the Schwartzwalder Mine in the Ralston Creek watershed

June 28, 2011

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter has filed a lawsuit challenging the state order…

State mining regulators “continue to coordinate closely with CDPHE in reviewing and monitoring on-site activities, as well as ensuring environmental protections are in place to protect drinking water supplies,” Pineda said. “Cotter has submitted a proposal to install a bypass that would divert ground and surface water around the mine, and the company is continuing to provide DRMS with information needed to fully review this proposal.”

A picture named cottercontamination.jpg

Meanwhile, Cotter has received permission to use an impoundment pond that the state of Colorado claims leaks, according to a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. Here’s an excerpt:

The tailings impoundment at Cotter is about 157 acres and includes two retention areas. One is closed and contains about 2 million cubic yards of material. The second area is open and receiving materials related to the mill demolition, including the 90,000 gallons of sludge. It contains about 2 million cubic yards of material and is about half full, according to the health department. Cotter’s vice president for milling operations, John Hamrick, said the sludge is about 95 percent kerosene, used to process uranium. Before the sludge is moved to the impoundment, it will be mixed with another material. “It’s like kitty litter,” Hamrick said Monday. “It becomes a solid.”

Eventually, new sludge and solvents dumped into the leaky impoundment will be neutralized, health department spokeswoman Jeannine Natterman said. “More contamination is not going into that (Cañon City) area.” Hamrick said Cotter disputes the health department’s assessment of the impoundment. “We disagree with the state, that the impoundments are leaking,” he said…

Toxic plumes have been detected moving underground toward Cañon City and the Arkansas River. Most recently, officials disclosed that the cancer-causing chemical trichloroethylene has been detected in groundwater at concentrations up to 360 times federal health limits.
“It has been confirmed that no trichlroethylene has gotten into Lincoln Park (neighborhood in Cañon City),” Natterman said. Cotter officials “are still poking holes, taking samples” to characterize that plume, she said. “Cotter is responsible for all the sampling and analysis. All data have to be quality-controlled by us.”

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder mine cleanup update

November 18, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter’s attorneys conceded that Cotter has not taken a step toward complying with an existing state order to pump out and treat toxic water filling the Schwartzwalder mine. That mine sits upstream from Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, which supplies drinking water to 1.3 million metro-area residents…

“We are entitled to know what compliance would look like,” Cotter attorney Nea Brown said before the state Mined Land Reclamation Board. Board members then read aloud a prior order requiring Cotter to pump water from the mine to a level at least 500 feet below the opening of the mine. There was an Aug. 31 deadline. “I’m just a farmer from down east, but I can read that,” said board chairman Ira Paulin, who represents the mining industry at state hearings. “It says you have got to implement it.”

Brown argued that the required corrective actions are broad and unclear and that Cotter would need time to move in equipment and have a place to put the water it removes…

Board members will continue their hearing today, when they will decide whether to impose additional fines of up to $1,000 a day for 78 days, issue new violations and a “cease and desist order” that essentially repeats state demands. Cotter separately has taken its case to Denver District Court, filing a lawsuit against the state. It asks that a judge block state efforts to order the cleanup and impose fines and accuses the state mined lands board members of abusing their discretion.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp sues the state over cleanup order at the Schwartzwalder mine

October 7, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The lawsuit, recently filed in Denver District Court, accuses Colorado’s Mined Lands Reclamation Board of abusing its discretion when it ordered Cotter to pump out and treat uranium-tainted water that inspections have shown to be rising toward the rim of Cotter’s defunct Schwartzwalder mine…

At issue is whether state regulators had enough evidence to order the cleanup and impose fines. Cotter is seeking a judge’s order to reverse both of those actions…

The lawsuit is the latest step in a standoff between Cotter and the state. Regulators have moved to increase a $55,000 fine against Cotter for failing to comply with cleanup orders. Since April, they’ve repeatedly ordered Cotter, a subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics, to pump and treat toxic water filling the mine along Ralston Creek. The creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, contains uranium at levels far exceeding health standards for drinking water. Cotter in July began pumping contaminated water from surface alluvial ponds along the creek. But the most- contaminated water in the 2,000-foot- deep mine shaft is untouched. Cotter contends the water in the mine shaft is not connected to groundwater. State mining regulators argue that water in the mine is connected to groundwater and the creek.

More nuclear coverage here and here. More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp, Inc. is refusing to pay fines levied by Colorado over uranium polluted groundwater at the Schwartzwalder mine

September 25, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley) via the Grand Junction Free Press:

State regulators on Monday were moving to increase a $55,000 fine and schedule another enforcement hearing in November. They said unless emergency powers can be invoked, state law leaves few other options. “It’s the drinking water supply. We’re very concerned about it. We’re doing everything we can,” said senior environment protection specialist Tony Waldron of Colorado’s Department of Natural Resources.

Since April, Cotter, a subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics, has faced repeated state orders to pump and treat toxic water filling the mine, northwest of Golden along Ralston Creek. The creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir, contains uranium levels as high as 310 parts per billion — more than 10 times the 30 ppb health standard for drinking water. State officials had offered to suspend all but $2,500 of current fines if Cotter would comply by Aug. 31…

A pumping operation begun in July removes contaminants from surface alluvial ponds along Ralston Creek, he said. But water in the 2,000-foot- deep mine shaft is untouched. Cotter contends water in the mine shaft is not connected to groundwater. State mining regulators argue that water in the mine is connected to both groundwater and the creek. The mine water contains uranium at levels more than 1,000 times state and federal standards. A state inspection this month found the water had risen to 14 feet below the rim of the mine, from 29 feet below it in May.

More coverage from the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

According to letters (pdf) obtained by the Colorado Independent, Cotter Corp. – which owns the Cotter Mill near Cañon City – has declined to pay a $55,000 fine for uranium pollution 1,200 times state standards contaminating Ralston Creek, a feeder for Ralston Reservoir, which is Denver Water and City of Arvada drinking water supply. “Cotter reserves all of its rights to administrative and judicial review as provided under Colorado law, and Cotter has exercised and will continue to exercise such rights as necessary,” the company wrote in a Sept. 10 letter to the state Mined Land Reclamation Board (MLRB). “Accordingly, Cotter respectfully declines to remit the penalty under the MLRB Order.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp’s cleanup plans at the Schwartzwalder mine fall short according to state regulators

August 27, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

“Pumping just from the alluvium will not be sufficient to mitigate the uranium-contamination problem,” said Loretta Pineda, Colorado director of mining, reclamation and safety. “(State regulators) have ordered Cotter to pump and treat from both the alluvium and the mine pool.”

State officials recently fined Cotter $55,000, then suspended all but $2,500 on the condition that Cotter initiate a cleanup by Aug. 31. That could include any action, such as positioning the right equipment at the mine. State regulators, Pineda said, “believe the mine pool poses a significant risk to surface water (and are) vigorously pursuing the enforcement action. . . . The state fully intends to hold Cotter accountable for permit violations.”

Of greatest concern is Ralston Creek, which flows into Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir and contains uranium levels exceeding health standards. Cotter “strongly disagrees” with state regulators, according to a June letter sent to the Colorado attorney general from Cotter attorney Charlotte Neitzel. “Although Cotter believes it has not violated the statutes and regulations,” the letter said, the company “recognizes the importance of taking action for the situation at Ralston Creek.”[...]

Cotter contends that the highly toxic groundwater filling the shaft, where uranium levels far exceed health standards, does not reach Ralston Creek.

“(Denver Water) supports the state’s order for Cotter to treat the groundwater in the mine,” spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “We’re very concerned with maintaining the quality of our source waters and hope Cotter complies.” Tests along Ralston Creek indicate uranium concentrations as high as 310 parts per billion, above the 30 ppb standard for drinking water, Chesney said. “Our treated water is meeting drinking-water standards, and our current treatment process is able to handle uranium at these levels. However, that could change in the future,” she said. “Installing a new system would be costly.”

More nuclear coverage here and here. More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp starts Schwartzwalder mine cleanup

July 9, 2010

A picture named uranium

From The Denver Post:

The owner of a defunct uranium mine leaking pollution along a creek that flows into a Denver Water reservoir has launched a cleanup as ordered, state officials confirmed Thursday. Cotter Corp. installed a system that can pump and treat up to 50 gallons per minute of contaminated water from inside its Schwartzenwalder Mine, west of Denver in Jefferson County.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder uranium tainted water cleanup to start in July

June 15, 2010

A picture named uranium

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Operators of a defunct uranium mine accused by the state of contaminating groundwater and a nearby creek have agreed to begin a cleanup by the end of July. “We intend to comply to the best of our ability,” Cotter Corp. vice president John Hamrick said. Cotter will pump and treat tainted water from inside its Schwartzwalder mine in Jefferson County, then seek a state permit before releasing treated water back into Ralston Creek, Hamrick said…

Cotter was responding to a cease-and-desist order issued June 1 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Fines as high as $10,000 per day could be imposed. Cotter officials and state regulators have been negotiating.

Colorado Department of Natural Resources mining regulators sent Cotter a separate notice saying they have reason to believe Cotter has failed to comply with permit requirements designed to protect the environment.

State regulators have pressed to get the company to pump and treat the toxic water in the mine. “We’re in the process of establishing that system,” Hamrick said. State officials “have given us until July 31. We expect to have it by that date or before,” he said…

Residents of Denver, Arvada and the North Table Mountain Water and Sanitation District depend on the reservoir for drinking water. Municipal-water providers say their filtration systems remove uranium but aren’t designed specifically for this. Denver Water and others have been urging a swift cleanup.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment orders Cotter to stop flows from Schwartzwalder

June 11, 2010

A picture named uranium

From the Associated Press:

The state health department is taking action because Cotter Corp. has been discharging pollution without a permit and uranium levels in the water are significantly exceeding the safety standard, Steve Gunderson, director of the state water quality control division, said Thursday. The agency sent the notice earlier this month. The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety has sent a separate notice to Cotter saying it believes the company is violation of several state laws. Cotter could face fines of up to $10,000 if found in violation. The Denver-based company didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment. Hearings are scheduled July 14 and 15 to consider whether Cotter should face penalties.

Uranium was detected in raw water going to the west-Denver suburb of Arvada, Gunderson said. The city’s water treatment plants can filter out the uranium, but disposing of the contamination could become a problem.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado orders Cotter to start treating the water at the Schwartzwalder mine

May 22, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From the Associated Press via The Durango Herald:

The Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety said Thursday it doesn’t believe the plan would prevent uranium from contaminating Ralston Reservoir, which supplies some of the Denver area’s drinking water. Loretta Pineda, the agency’s director said Cotter has been directed to resume treating the water and submit a new plan within two weeks.

From The Denver Post:

The state Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety rejected the protection plan Cotter submitted last month and instructed the Denver-based company to submit a water-treatment plan within two weeks, the agency said in a news release…Cotter had proposed a man-made wetland and a chemical filter to capture uranium leaking from the mine.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado orders Cotter to start treating the water at the Schwartzwalder mine

May 21, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

The mining division required Cotter to begin water treatment at its Schwartzwalder uranium mine west of Arvada by July 31.

“The mining division took bold and decisive action to protect our drinking water,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kathy Hartman said in a release. “I am pleased to see immediate action to protect Ralston Reservoir.”

Uranium levels at the mine itself exceeded 1,400 times Colorado water quality standards.

“Thousands of people depend on clean water from Ralston Reservoir, and we can’t afford for Cotter to drag its feet cleaning up their mess,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate with Environment Colorado and a Jefferson County resident. “The mining division deserves praise for taking strong action.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Arvada and Denver officials are pressuring state mining regulators to force Cotter to cleanup the Schwartzwalder mine

May 20, 2010

A picture named nukeplantcattenomfrance.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

The latest water-quality tests showed that Ralston Creek below Schwartzwalder mine carried as much as 390 parts per billion of uranium, which is 13 times higher than the 30 ppb health standard. Contamination of groundwater at the source — inside the mine — exceeded the standard by 1,000 times. Drinking water remains safe, Denver Water and Arvada authorities said, because uranium is removed from Ralston Reservoir water by municipal water treatment plants. Still, even after treatment, uranium levels appear to be rising in some systems. In Arvada, reservoir water tested at 7.2 ppb before treatment. Uranium in drinking water sent to the city’s household customers increased to 1.2 ppb in April from 0.9 ppb in January.

“We’re urging the state to take immediate action,” said James McCarthy, Arvada’s chief of regulatory and environmental compliance. “We’re not retooling for uranium removal. That’s not just something you can turn a switch and do. That’s why Cotter has to do something about this. Why didn’t they make it known sooner?”

Jefferson County officials said they’ve been in regular contact with state regulators. The reservoir’s owner, Denver Water, “would like to see immediate and aggressive steps to ensure that reclamation of the mine is completed in a timely manner,” spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.

Colorado’s top water-quality overseer sent a memo May 10 to the mining regulators recommending swift action. “If a permanent solution cannot be implemented in a very short time frame, then an interim solution, such as pumping and treating as much contaminated water as possible, should be launched immediately,” wrote Steve Gunderson, director of water quality control for the state health department. Cotter’s mine “is causing a violation of stream standards. That’s the thing we’re waiting to get addressed. They cannot have a discharge that is violating stream standards,” Gunderson said Wednesday.

More Schwartzwalder coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: State Water Quality Control Division nukes Cotter plan for Schwartzwalder mine mitigation

May 12, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From the Associated Press via CBS4Denver.com:

Cotter Corp. has submitted a plan to state mining regulators to reduce uranium levels in Ralston Creek from the closed Schwartzwalder Mine. The water flows into a reservoir that supplies some of Denver’s drinking water. The Water Quality Control Division of the state health department told mining regulators in a memo Monday that Cotter’s plan doesn’t reduce uranium in the water to acceptable levels…

The state Office of Mined Land Reclamation expects to decide by May 19 whether to approve or reject Cotter’s plan or seek more information.

Meanwhile here’s a look at HB 10-1348 and how it will impact Cotter’s plans for their mill in Cañon City from Marjorie Childress writing for the Colorado Independent. From the article:

A controversial plan to open an old uranium mine on Mt. Taylor near Grants, New Mexico, faces an obstacle in the new law passed by the Colorado legislature that forbids increased operations at uranium mills until the mill companies clean up sites contaminated in the past. The Cotter Uranium Mill, just a little over a mile south of Cañon City is owned by the same company that owns the Mt. Taylor mine and is the designated recipient of future Mt. Taylor uranium ore. Under the new law, which Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter has yet to sign, Cotter would not be able to accept the ore, at least not any time soon. “This is not unexpected,” John Hamrick, vice president of milling at Cotter, told the Cañon City Daily Record. “This bill will prevent us from processing the Mount Taylor ore.”

Click through and read the whole article — there is a lot of good detail.

More HB 10-1348 coverage from Matthew Beaudin writing for the Telluride Daily Planet. From the article:

The bill will essentially require companies to clean as they go, curtailing the toxic sites that dot the Western landscape and the towering cleanup costs that saddled taxpayers. (Colorado alone has shelled out more than $1 billion to cleanup the industry.) Last week, the Senate voted 24-9 in favor of the bill and the house later readopted the bill resoundingly, 60-3. Now, it waits for Ritter to vault it into law…

Hilary White, Sheep Mountain Alliance’s executive director, helped work on the measure and said Ritter will sign the bill “shortly.”[...]

Taxpayers have spent more than $950 million to clean up toxic pollution at past uranium milling operations located primarily on Colorado’s Western Slope, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. “It means that the bad actors in the uranium industry will not be allowed to operate if they are in violation of contaminating the environment,” White said. “It’s been shown time and time again that uranium companies just walk away from their messes.”[...]

Jeffrey Parsons, a senior attorney with the Western Mining Action Project, which supports the bill, said there’s no guarantee Cotter will be able to get ore from Mount Taylor, which is considered sacred land by as many as 30 Indian tribes. White said the measure will also increase bonding obligations for operators in hopes of stanching the costs of future cleanup. All told, the Naturita mill site cost $67 million to clean up and the Uravan site, designated a Superfund site, cost $120 million to clean, White said. Also according to Sheep Mountain, Energy Fuels, the company planning to build a mill in Paradox Valley, plans to put up $12 million in bonding. Bonding in general, she said, was “less than adequate.” “The industry is a mess and needs to be cleaned up,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado natural resources and health regulators don’t yet agree with Cotter for proposed remediation at the Schwartzwalder Mine

April 29, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Denver Water and environmentalists on Wednesday demanded an aggressive cleanup to protect public health. They say drinking water is safe because water treatment plants remove uranium. State natural resources and health regulators are reviewing a cleanup proposal that Cotter submitted eight days ago. Cotter’s proposed options include:

• Rerouting Ralston Creek through pipes around the mine. This could harm aquatic life but prevent contamination from reaching Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir.

• Creating an artificial wetland that gradually could filter out uranium. Critics said this could be too slow.

• Installing a barrier to filter the uranium from water before it gets to the creek or groundwater.

• Digging out toxic soil 20 feet deep at the mine and hauling it to a disposal site. That remedy may depend on whether groundwater links to the mine, more than 2,000 feet deep…

“If we can demonstrate there’s no communication between the mine pool and the groundwater that results in a measurable impact, then we may not have to do anything with the mine pool,” Cotter vice president John Hamrick said. “We all agree there’s a problem. We’re working to address it.”[...]

“If (Cotter’s proposal) is determined to be deficient, (state regulators) will ask for the deficiencies to be corrected,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Theo Stein said. State inspectors documented contamination in 2007, records show. They negotiated with Cotter, which argued that the mine was not a facility subject to state law. The law was changed in 2008 to include uranium mines. In 2009, regulators rejected Cotter’s initial cleanup plan as inadequate…

Denver Water officials are waiting for results from water tests done last week at Ralston Creek and Ralston Reservoir, spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said. “The faster the parties can agree on a plan, the better it will be for everyone,” she said.

More Schwartzwalder mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Schwartzwalder Mine uranium tainted water threatens Ralston Creek/Ralston Reservoir

April 17, 2010

A picture named nukeplantcattenomfrance.jpg

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Groundwater near the Schwartzwalder Mine contains uranium levels that are 1,000 times higher than the human health standards, according to an Associated Press article. The contaminated groundwater is near Ralston Creek, which flows into Ralston Resevoir. The resevoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.

John Hamrick, Cotter’s vice president of milling, said the company had been working with the Department of Reclamation and Mining Safety to address the issue. “We have a plan that is due to them Monday about different remedial alternatives,” Hamrick said. The mine is located north and west of Golden. Hamrick said it started operations in the 1950s and was closed in 2000.

He said there were three parts to the mine when it was in operation: the underground mine, an ore sorter and a water treatment plant for water used in the mining operation. The company has a license through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for the ore sorter and water treatment plant. “We’re in the final process of terminating that license,” he said…

Hamrick said the groundwater flow from the creek goes through waste rock from the mine and that is probably where it is picking up uranium. While the mine itself has water in it, that water level is steady. “We do not think that the mine water is getting into the creek,” he said.

Here’s some history for the mine from Wikipedia:

In 1949 janitor and weekend prospector Fred Schwartzwalder discovered uranium at an abandoned copper prospect in Jefferson County about ten miles northeast of Central City and eight miles north of Golden. The deposit consists of Tertiary hydrothermal veins filling fracture zones oriented predominantly NNW-SSE in gneiss, schist, and quartzite of the Precambrian Idaho Springs Formation. The chief ore mineral is pitchblende, which occurs with adularia and ankerite. Schwartzwalder could interest no one in his discovery, so he drove the first adit of the Schwartzwalder mine by himself, made the first ore shipment in 1953, and sold the mine in 1955. The Schwartzwalder mine was the source of more than 99% of the uranium produced from the Front Range province. The mine operated until 1995, producing 17 million pounds (7700 metric tons) of uranium oxide. The mine is owned by General Atomics subsidiary the Cotter Corporation, which estimates that there are an additional 16 million pounds (7300 metric tons) of uranium oxide resource remaining in the mine.

More coverage from The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Uranium concentrations in groundwater 30 feet beneath the brim of the Schwartzwalder Mine exceed the human health standard for uranium by more than 1,000 times, according to state records reviewed Thursday. Unhealthy concentrations also were detected in Ralston Creek, which eventually enters Denver Water’s Ralston Reservoir. The reservoir supplies water to Denver and Arvada.

Denver Water managers say no uranium contamination has entered the drinking-water supply…

Neither Cotter nor the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which is responsible for water quality, notified Denver Water. “It would have been nice to know,” said Brian Good, Denver Water’s manager of operations and maintenance. Denver Water now will increase testing for uranium, Good said, calling on Cotter to clean it up. Because Denver’s Moffat water- treatment plant is closed for maintenance, no Ralston Reservoir water currently enters Denver’s drinking-water system, Good said. “Our water is safe,” he said, “but it’s a little bit troubling that (uranium) is coming into our reservoir in those concentrations.”[...]

Colorado’s Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety “does not believe conditions requiring an emergency response currently exist. If they should arise, (the state) can require Cotter to pump and treat mine water to bring down levels and ensure groundwater is not jeopardized,” state spokesman Theo Stein said.

From the Associated Press via the Sky-Hi Daily News:

Cotter vice president John Hamrick says they’re considering several methods to deal with the contamination, including creating a wetland.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado fines Cotter for violation of August cleanup order

November 20, 2010

A picture named uranium.jpg

From The Denver Post:

The board also imposed the $55,000 in penalties contained in the August order and added an additional penalty of $39,000 for Cotter’s failure to take any action since then.

More Schwartzwalder Mine coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Powertech sues Colorado over new in-situ mining rules

November 12, 2010

A picture named uraniuminsitu.jpg

From the Fort Collins Coloradoan (Bobby Magill):

Powertech, which previously called some of the provisions of the rules “fatal” to future in situ uranium mining in Colorado, proposes to open the Centennial Project uranium mine about 15 miles northeast of Fort Collins in Weld County.

The rules, mandated by House Bill 1161, signed by Gov. Bill Ritter in 2008, require Powertech to establish the level of groundwater purity before it begins prospecting for uranium and then establish a similar baseline for water quality before mining begins…

When the company is finished mining, it must fully decontaminate the groundwater and return it to its original purity to ensure the water is no longer polluted. Powertech’s lawsuit calls that rule irrational. Fully cleaning up the groundwater will be too expensive and will require the use of too much water from somewhere else to do the job, the lawsuit claims. And, Powertech claims, making the company completely decontaminate the water will hold the company to a higher standard than any other mining company in Colorado…

The lawsuit alleges [Rep. Randy Fischer, Rep. John Kefalas], Rep. Kathleen Curry and Sen. Gayle Schwartz violated the separation of powers under the state Constitution by writing a March 15 letter to the Mined Land Reclamation Board providing them direction on how to implement HB 1161.

Powertech’s lawsuit claims the state has no authority to require mining companies to test groundwater purity before it begins prospecting for uranium, and it says the state’s rule to show how other mines have reclaimed the groundwater is arbitrary. “These rules require information about other operations permitted at some time in the past or at other locations by an operator unrelated” to Powertech, the lawsuit claims, dismissing the rules as overly burdensome.

More coverage from the Loveland Reporter-Herald (Tom Hacker):

Powertech Uranium Corp., the Canadian uranium prospecting company that plans the Centennial mine, filed suit in Denver District Court claiming rules adopted by regulators during the past two years designed to protect groundwater are “arbitrary and capricious.” But members of Citizens Against Resource Destruction, the group aligned to fight the mine plan, say Powertech’s legal action stands in contrast to its stated commitment to protect the environment. Moreover, Powertech officials had said in published comments they “can live with” the new rules, and they are “not fatal to the project.”[...]

A lawyer representing the Western Mining Action Project said Thursday the lawsuit’s progress would be difficult to predict. “These cases can move quickly or they can take some time,” said Jeff Parsons, a Loveland resident who commutes to the mining watchdog group’s headquarters in Lyons. “It can be a very long, drawn-out process.”

The Weld County rancher who founded the opposition group, and whose land is adjacent to the mine site, said the lawsuit flies in the face of the company’s assurances to protect water resources. “It’s insulting,” Robin Davis said. “Powertech has told us from the very beginning they could and would restore our water. Now that we have regulations in place that will hold them accountable to their word, they sue the state of Colorado for protecting its resources.” The rule-making process took two years. It included a trip to Loveland by members of the mine reclamation board in April to gather public comment.

Conservationists were joined by water utilities, local governments and affected communities in crafting the regulations. Parsons said Powertech’s suit will face obstacles in the legal process as it progresses. “Anytime you sue the state over a regulatory issue, it’s an uphill battle,” he said.

More coverage from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Denver District Court by Powertech Inc., names the Colorado Mined Land Reclamation Board and Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, as defendants. The company claims that rules and regulations adopted in August by the state to protect groundwater against damage created by the “in-situ” method of uranium mining are too restrictive. The lawsuit asks the court to examine the rules adopted by the board to determine whether it violated Colorado statutory rulemaking requirements and the state’s constitution. “We feel some improvements can be made and others are outside the bounds of what the Colorado legislature intended,” said Powertech attorney John Fognani…

[Jeff Parsons, a lawyer for the Western Mining Action Project] said this is the second time in recent weeks the uranium mining industry has sued state mining regulators to weaken groundwater protections. In September, Cotter Corp. sued the state mining board over cleanup orders at Cotter’s Schwartzwalder Mine, which drains into Denver Water supplies on Ralston Creek near Golden. “The uranium mining industry in Colorado is wrong to keep fighting water-quality protections and better public involvement,” Parsons said…

According to the lawsuit, one of the rules requires applicants to document reclamation work at five in-situ mining operations, not necessarily their own. “These rules require information about other operations permitted some time in the past, or at other locations by an operator unrelated to the applicant, and are therefore arbitrary, capricious, prejudicial and void for vagueness.” Another rule authorizes a “discretionary denial of a permit” if the mining reclamation board has “uncertainty” about the feasibility of a reclamation. “This provision is confusing, vague and unnecessary,” since the agency already has the authority, and responsibility, to deny a permit if an applicant can’t reach reclamation standards, according to the lawsuit.

Fognani said Powertech would still be able to meet the requirements of any state permitting process if the rules remain intact. “We just believe some certain improvement can be made,” he said.

More coverage from the Northern Colorado Business Journal. From the article:

The Powertech suit alleges that the rules go too far in restricting the company’s ability to mine uranium. It plans to use an in-situ process that removes underground uranium deposits by injecting a solution into the deposits to loosen them so they can be pumped to the surface. The rules require denial of a permit if a mining company cannot first demonstrate it will restore groundwater quality to baseline quality or better. The suit further alleges that another rule is a “blackball” provision that allows the denial of a reclamation permit because of “one or more past or current violations by an applicant or by an entity or individual who is very loosely related, if at all, to the applicant.” “These provisions are overly broad and punitive and could prevent a good company from conducting a mining operation because of isolated or administrative-type violations that may not even be related to that company,” the suit states.

More nuclear coverage here and here. More HB 08-1161 coverage here.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 996 other followers

%d bloggers like this: