Cotter and the CPDHE are still trying to work out a de-commissioning agreement for the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

April 5, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A broken pipe at Cotter Corp.’s dismantled mill in central Colorado spewed 20,000 gallons of uranium-laced waste — just as Cotter is negotiating with state and federal authorities to end one of the nation’s longest-running Superfund cleanups.

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials said last weekend’s spill stayed on Cotter property.

In addition, uranium and molybdenum contamination, apparently from other sources on the Cotter property, has spiked at a monitoring well in adjacent Cañon City. A Feb. 20 report by Cotter’s consultant said groundwater uranium levels at the well in the Lincoln Park neighborhood “were the highest recorded for this location,” slightly exceeding the health standard of 30 parts per billion. State health data show uranium levels are consistently above health limits at other wells throughout the neighborhood but haven’t recently spiked.

“This isn’t acceptable,” Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne said of the spill – the fourth since 2010. “(CDPHE officials) told us it is staying on Cotter’s property. But 20,000 gallons? You have to worry about that getting into groundwater.”

Environmental Protection Agency and CDPHE officials are negotiating an agreement with Cotter to guide cleanup, data-gathering, remediation and what to do with 15 million tons of radioactive uranium tailings. Options range from removal — Cotter estimates that cost at more than $895 million — or burial in existing or new impoundment ponds.

Gov. John Hickenlooper intervened last year to hear residents’ concerns and try to speed final cleanup.

Cotter vice president John Hamrick said the agreement will lay out timetables for the company to propose options with cost estimates.

The spill happened when a coupler sleeve split on a 6-inch plastic pipe, part of a 30-year-old system that was pumping back toxic groundwater from a 300-foot barrier at the low end of Cotter’s 2,538-acre property, Hamrick said.

Lab analysis provided by Cotter showed the spilled waste contained uranium about 94 times higher than the health standard, and molybdenum at 3,740 ppb, well above the 100-ppb standard for that metal, said Jennifer Opila, leader of the state’s radioactive materials unit.

She said Cotter’s system for pumping back toxic groundwater is designed so that groundwater does not leave the site, preventing any risk to the public.

In November, Cotter reported a spill of 4,000 to 9,000 gallons. That was five times more than the amount spilled in November 2012. Another spill happened in 2010.

At the neighborhood in Cañon City, the spike in uranium contamination probably reflects slow migration of toxic material from Cold War-era unlined waste ponds finally reaching the front of an underground plume, Hamrick said.

“It is a blip. It does not appear to be an upward trend. If it was, we would be looking at it,” Hamrick said. “We will be working with state and EPA experts to look at the whole groundwater monitoring and remediation system.”

An EPA spokeswoman agreed the spike does not appear to be part of an upward trend, based on monitoring at other wells, but she said the agency does take any elevated uranium levels seriously.

The Cotter mill, now owned by defense contractor General Atomics, opened in 1958, processing uranium for nuclear weapons and fuel. Cotter discharged liquid waste, including radioactive material and heavy metals, into 11 unlined ponds until 1978. The ponds were replaced in 1982 with two lined waste ponds. Well tests in Cañon City found contamination, and in 1984, federal authorities declared a Superfund environmental disaster.

Colorado officials let Cotter keep operating until 2011, and mill workers periodically processed ore until 2006.

A community group, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, has been pressing for details and expressing concerns about the Cotter site. Energy Minerals Law Center attorney Travis Stills, representing residents, said the data show “the likely expansion of the uranium plume, following the path of a more mobile molybdenum plume” into Cañon City toward the Arkansas River.

The residents deserve independent fact-gathering and a proper cleanup, Stills said.

“There’s an official, decades-old indifference to groundwater protection and cleanup of groundwater contamination at the Cotter site — even though sustainable and clean groundwater for drinking, orchards, gardens and livestock remains important to present and future Lincoln Park residents,” he said. “This community is profoundly committed to reclaiming and protecting its groundwater.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: New spill contained onsite

March 11, 2014
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

For the second time in five months, Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill officials have discovered a leak of contaminated water, but both spills reportedly were contained on-site. On Monday, Cotter personnel reported to Colorado Department of Public Health officials a release of greater than 500 gallons of water from the barrier system pump-back pipeline. The water spilled was contaminated groundwater recovered by the barrier system and being pumped back to the facility.

The spill was discovered at 8 a.m. Monday and mill personnel were last on-site at approximately 4:30 p.m. Friday. The spill did not result in contaminated materials leaving the Cotter property. More information will be provided as the investigation continues, according to Deb Shaw, health department program assistant. A similar spill occurred in November when between 4,000 and 9,000 gallons of contaminated water seeped from the same pipeline.

Contaminated water usually is pumped, along with groundwater, to an on-site evaporation pond to prevent further contamination in Lincoln Park, which has been a part of a Superfund cleanup site since 1988. The now-defunct mill is in the process of decommissioning and has not been used to process uranium since 2006.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

More details have emerged in connection with a Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill leak of contaminated water which occurred over the weekend south of town. State health officials reported Tuesday that about 20,000 gallons of the contaminated water leaked from the pump-back system pipeline.

“Analytical results show that the water contained 2,840 micrograms per liter of uranium and 3,740 micrograms per liter of molybdenum. For comparison, the groundwater standard in Colorado for uranium is 30 micrograms per liter and for molybdenum is 100 micrograms per liter,” said Deb Shaw, program assistant for the state health department.

At those concentrations of contamination the spill is not reportable to the National Response Center because the quantity is below 10.3 million gallons, Shaw said.

The contamination did not seep off of Cotter property.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: 9,000 gallon spill contained on mill property

November 8, 2013
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill officials on Tuesday discovered contaminated water escaped a pump-back system at the mill site but the spill has been contained to the mill property. According to Warren Smith, community involvement manager for the state health department, the release of contaminated water was limited to between 4,000 and 9,000 gallons. The leak occurred at the junction of two pipe sections near the Soil Conservation Service pump back site, which is designed to prevent contaminated surface water from seeping into the neighboring Lincoln Park neighborhood.

“The soil in the area of the release is saturated. It will be allowed to dry so the pipe can be excavated and repaired,” Smith said.

Water samples were analyzed and based on concentration levels present, the maximum estimated release of uranium is limited to 1.1 ounces and the estimated molybdenum release is 2.6 ounces.

Contaminated water usually is pumped, along with groundwater, to an onsite evaporation pond to prevent further contamination in Lincoln Park, which has been a part of a Superfund cleanup site since 1988. The now-defunct mill is in the process of decommissioning and has not been used to process uranium since 2006.

From the Colorado Independent (Shelby Kinney-Lang):

Cotter Corporation informed the health department of the leaking pipes on Tuesday in a “verbal report” delivered over the phone. No health department personnel have inspected the spill site, as yet, and no formal report has yet been filed. Cotter said it will let the contaminated ground dry before excavating and repairing the pipe…

“We’ve got a company looking to walk away from a problem without actually cleaning it up,” said Travis E. Stills, an energy and conservation lawyer who has been working with community groups in Cañon City since the mid-2000s. Stills represents Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste on several ongoing state open records suits that seek information that passed between Cotter, the state health department and the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the uranium mill and the Lincoln Park Superfund Site, but which health department withheld from public review.

Uranium is extraordinarily toxic. The health department reports that if the pipe did in fact leak 9,000 gallons, the concentration in the water of uranium would be 834 micrograms per liter and the concentration of molybdenum, also a toxic chemical, would be 2,018 micrograms per liter. For perspective, the EPA places the health safety level of uranium at 30 micrograms per liter…

“They got a hole in the pipe and it leaked back into the ground,” he said.

Warren Smith, community involvement manager in the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the department, insisted there was no danger to public health.

“There is no public health risk here, because there is no exposure to the public,” Smith said. “Health risk depends on two factors: the release and exposure. If there’s no receptor to be exposed to it, where’s the risk?”

Smith said that the health department performs regular inspections of the Cotter site. The most recent was a September inspection. Because the pipe was buried, Smith said it would be a stretch to “characterize it as an [inspection] oversight.”

Smith said it would be a serious lapse if Cotter had failed to report the spill. Inspections don’t occur often enough for the state to have happened upon the spill any time soon.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund cleanup: Cotter wants to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring

October 23, 2013
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Site via The Denver Post

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being sought on a Cotter Corp. uranium mill proposal seeking to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring on 11 new wells. The state health department has preliminarily approved the request and will take public input before making a final decision. Cotter Corp. Mill Manager John Hamrick indicated more than a year’s worth of sampling has been amassed on 11 new wells, which were dug in late 2011 to help establish the extent of groundwater contamination.

“Once we’ve established 12 months of measurements, we generally move to quarterly sampling as we do with all the other wells,” Hamrick explained.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been an EPA Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils. Groundwater is not used by residents in the contaminated area of Lincoln Park as they all have been connected to the city water supply.

Hamrick said the average uranium value for each of the new monitoring wells is below the Colorado Groundwater Quality Standard. Only three wells have exceeded the standard for uranium — one six times, another twice and the third just once.

The average molybdenum concentration for most of the new wells also was below the state standard and only three wells have exceeded that standard out of 115 samples.

The state health department reviewed the request as did the Cotter Community Advisory Group. Regulators feel, “Significant baseline data” has been collected to allow for quarterly monitoring instead of monthly, said Jennifer Opila, unit leader for the state heath department’s radioactive materials division.

Public comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 13. Comments can be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager, via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or by calling 303-692-3373.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Cleanup awaiting state go ahead

August 19, 2013

cottergroundwatercontaminationlocation.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

State health officials have preliminarily ordered Cotter Corp. Mill officials not to do any cleanup work pending future decommissioning and reclamation guidelines. Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill Manager John Hamrick had requested permission to excavate the ore pad area after uranium ore was removed and shipped to the White Mesa Mill in Blanding, Utah.

The state health department’s Jennifer Opila, unit leader, said although an earlier work pause has been lifted, Cotter will not be authorized to proceed with, “New decommissioning or reclamation activities.” She said the decision to deny the request was made after health officials and the Community Advisory Group discussed the issue. The public is invited to comment on the state’s preliminary decision.

Comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 20. The public also can comment during the same time frame on completion reports for Lincoln Park water wells.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Public comments sought on proposal to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring

August 9, 2013

cottergroundwatercontaminationlocation.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Public comment is being sought on a Cotter Corp. uranium mill proposal seeking to reduce the frequency of groundwater monitoring on 11 new wells. The state health department has preliminarily approved the request and will take public input before making a final decision. Cotter Corp. Mill Manager John Hamrick indicated more than a year’s worth of sampling has been amassed on 11 new wells, which were dug in late 2011 to help establish the extent of groundwater contamination.

“Once we’ve established 12 months of measurements, we generally move to quarterly sampling as we do with all the other wells,” Hamrick explained.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been an EPA Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils. Groundwater is not used by residents in the contaminated area of Lincoln Park as they all have been connected to the city water supply.

Hamrick said the average uranium value for each of the new monitoring wells is below the Colorado Groundwater Quality Standard. Only three wells have exceeded the standard for uranium — one six times, another twice and the third just once. The average molybdenum concentration for most of the new wells also was below the state standard and only three wells have exceeded that standard out of 115 samples.

The state health department reviewed the request as did the Cotter Community Advisory Group. Regulators feel, “Significant baseline data” has been collected to allow for quarterly monitoring instead of monthly, said Jennifer Opila, unit leader for the state heath department’s radioactive materials division.

Public comment will be accepted Monday through Sept. 13. Comments can be sent to Warren Smith, community involvement manager, via email at warren.smith@state.co.us or by calling 303-692-3373.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: Baby steps towards decommissioning

June 23, 2013

cottermillcontaminationconcerndenverpost10232011.jpg

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The pause is officially being lifted.

Monica Sheets, of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Lincoln Park/Cotter Community Advisory Group on Thursday that the lifting of the pause does not mean the work will resume immediately, but that the department will start getting plans and documents consistent with the roadmap for decommissioning the Cotter site.

The original letter setting the pause, issued in March 2012, said the CAG would be reformed and the roadmap would be formulated during the time off of operations.

“I was under the impression that since those two things were done, we could lift the pause,” Sheets said.

Sheets said she will send a letter to Cotter informing them that the pause was lifted and what the process will be moving forward.

“I would just hope that that letter would be very specific,” said CAG member and Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste co-president Sharyn Cunningham.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Citizens Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Citizen Advisory Group gets update on de-commissioning roadmap

April 22, 2013

cottermillcontaminationconcerndenverpost10232011

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The road map integrates the paths of the various authorities that cover different parts of the site, said Jennifer Opila, radioactive materials unit leader with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The documents cover the requirements for 1988 Consent Decree/Remedial Action Plan (CD/RAP), Cotter’s operating license and the Comprehensive Environment Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA or Superfund).

The document originally was published in July 2012, prior to the “pause” that is in effect at the site. CDPHE and the Environmental Protection Agency accepted public comments on the document at that time and released the current version at the end of March.

“This is the road map in its final stage at this time,” Opila said. “For now, we are not planning on taking formal comments on this version of the road map.”

However, she said the document is fluid and subject to change as the process moves forward, so the agencies will be accepting informal comments over time.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund de-commissioning could take 10-15 years

April 19, 2013

cottermillcontaminationconcerndenverpost10232011

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Members of a Community Advisory Group took their first look at a road map defining the course of action for decommissioning of the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill Thursday. The now defunct mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988 due to uranium and molybdenum contamination in groundwater and soils.

Jennifer Opila, a state health department radioactive materials unit leader, told the group that the road map will likely be updated and changed as the decommissioning goes forward. Basically it outlines what cleanup has been done and what plans are already in place. “We will need to update the plans to make sure they meet the needs as we go forward and the community will be involved,” Opila said. “Some information has been developed but in almost every case, we think more info needs to be gathered as we develop a remedial investigation.”

The very next step is uncertain, she said. “We are in new territory with a new team for both the state and the EPA so a lot of things we still are trying to figure out,” Opila said. “We might start with Operable Unit 1 (the Lincoln Park community) or what makes sense — maybe it is the mill site itself or all the units at the same time.” As the cleanup plan progresses, “We will start to compare potential different remedies to see if each meets all the nine criteria and is protective of human health and environment,” said Peggy Linn, EPA community involvement coordinator. “I hate to say it but we might look at the cost a little bit. We will discuss the findings all along the way with the group,” Linn said.

Once a proposed remedy or cleanup plan is selected, the public will again have a chance to comment. A remedial design will be followed by the remedial action plan during which, “We start actually building it,” Linn said. Even after the cleanup is complete, health authorities will continue five-year reviews to, “Check to see that everything is working,” Linn said. Decommissioning could take 10 to 15 years.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: De-commissioning plan winding its way to the EPA

April 4, 2013

lincolnparksuperfund.jpg

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A road map defining the course of action for cleanup and decommissioning of the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill has been finalized. The plan has been prepared by state and federal health authorities after public input. It will be discussed during the Community Advisory Group meeting from 2 to 5 p.m. April 18 at the Fremont County administration building, Sixth and Macon streets, Room 207.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988 because uranium and molybdenum contamination seeped into groundwater and soils.

After state and federal health officials conduct a review of documentation, the site characterization will be the first step in the decommissioning process, which could take 10 to 15 years to complete. Public comment will be accepted at each stage of the process.

The site characterization will detail any problem areas and also will include a final public health assessment for Lincoln Park.

Final studies will be amassed in a remedial investigation report that will outline prior cleanup and current cleanup work.

From the remedial investigation report, a proposed cleanup remedy will be outlined and health officials also will screen possible alternative actions. Among decisions that will be made along the way will be whether to seal the primary lined impoundment — which already contains tailings and demolished buildings — or move all the waste to an offsite repository.

A final remedy will be selected followed by an EPA Superfund Record of Decision.

The final cleanup then will take place.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: Judge Robert Hyatt rules against Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste

March 16, 2013

cottercontamination

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A Denver District Court judge ruled Tuesday that the state health department did not abuse its discretion when setting a financial security for the clean up of the Cotter Corp. uranium mill here.

The suit, filed in 2010 on behalf of the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, disputed the amount of the total financial security set by state health officials alleging that it was set at $20.2 million when estimated costs for cleanup and decommissioning exceed $43.7 million.

The suit was seeking an order to require Cotter to post $54.3 million in financial warranty costs for the entire facility and direct the state health department to recalculate estimates of the total costs.

However, Judge Robert Hyatt ruled that he is, “Convinced that state health officials and Cotter engaged in a thorough analysis of the financial requirements for decommissioning of the mill and the decision to approve the final numbers was not arbitrary or capricious, an abuse of the agency’s discretion, unsupported by the evidence, or contrary to the law.” He entered a judgment in favor of Steve Tarlton and his employers.

Hyatt wrote in his 27page ruling that the “exhaustive process” led to his review of more than 3,000 pages of documents.

“We’re pleased the judge reached the conclusion that the department acted entirely properly,” said John Hamrick, Cotter Mill manager.

“It appears the judge has accepted the health department’s representation the state will work to fix all the problems we’ve identified,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of the citizen group. “He’s gonna let the process move forward and not going to interfere.”

Cunningham said some good things have come from the suit.

“The EPA is taking a more serious role, we have a new community advisory group, there have been health department personnel changes and the Governor’s office has pledged to maintain oversight on how the cleanup progresses. We are going to watch to make sure we see the plans brought to the community for input,” Cunningham said.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: Community Advisory Group has first meeting, 15-20 year decommissioning planned

March 2, 2013

cottermillcontaminationconcerndenverpost10232011

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A Community Advisory Group met for the first time Thursday, kicking off what will be a 15- to 20year process to decommission the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill south of town.

The Cotter Uranium Mill opened in 1958, became a part of a Superfund cleanup site in 1984 and ceased processing uranium for yellowcake in 2006. Cotter officials plan to close the mill forever and have already torn down most of the buildings on site.

At the meeting Thursday, the 14-member advisory group was introduced to entirely new teams of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state health department officials who will help guide the clean up of the site.
“The community advisory group input is always useful to the EPA,” said Martin Hestmark of the EPA. “We are going to listen to you,” said Mario Robles, a project manager for the EPA.

Among members of the new group are Jackie Mewes, a Canon City resident who worked 26 years at the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons plant during production and closure. “There is a broken infrastructure here because I see that things are not followed up on for sometimes two to three years. The process and regulations need to be up to date and the EPA needs to provide facilitation,” Mewes said.

Joe McMahon will serve as group facilitator on behalf of the EPA. He told the group members, “You all have other hats but in these meetings you are representing the community.”

“Am I missing something or why don’t we have a member from Cotter?” asked group member Marvin Eller. “They can’t be all bad.” McMahon told Eller that the group probably will get input from Cotter officials but that likely will come through the state health department and not through an actual representative sitting on the board. The group will advise state and federal health officials on proposals but it will be up to those agencies to make final decisions on the cleanup process. Chris Urbina, health department executive director, told the group that a road map on how the cleanup will proceed should be ready within a month, giving the group time to organize. At that point, a year-long pause in work will come to an end and cleaning up the mill site will begin, he said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A new Community Advisory Group is ready to get to work and should give direction to cleanup efforts at the Cotter Uranium Mill.

After a nearly yearlong pause to form the group and establish a road map for the complicated decommissioning process, work can begin. The 15member group will meet with state and federal officials at 6 p.m. Thursday at City Hall, 128 Main St.

The group is made up of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste members, City Councilwoman Pat Freda, Fremont County Commissioner Tim Payne, former Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl and several other interested community members.

The group’s members will decide protocols for moving forward and will hear an update on the Cotter Mill site from state health department officials

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The Cotter Uranium Mill site is mostly a naked landscape these days. For the first time since it opened in 1958, no native Colorado ores are on the site.

“It is a historic milestone; the last pile of ore was moved last week,” said John Hamrick, mill manager. “We tore down the whole mill without any injuries and the only buildings left are the office, change house, maintenance shop and analytical lab.”

All the other mill buildings have been chopped, placed around the edges of the primary impoundment — at least 10 feet from a plastic liner to prevent punctures — and buried in dirt, Hamrick said. Even the boilers have been disposed of after they were filled with a cement slurry.

The mill continues to employ 29 workers, who are busy with environmental monitoring work and the massive report writing that must be done. They measure 100-plus water wells, surface water and air monitors. Hamrick said when the primary and secondary impoundment are capped for good, they will be completely dry repositories that are supposed to last 1,000 years. “We will have to make sure the cover material is impervious enough that if the plastic liner ever goes away, any release would be very slow,” Hamrick said…

believes the tailings and chopped-up buildings should stay where they are and not moved off site as part of decommissioning.

“There is no credible pathway where contamination can get out of the site into the community.

And out of 45 mills in the country, Cotter is one of the very few that has the plastic liner under the impoundment ponds,” Hamrick said.

“Before we have our license terminated there cannot be any remedial activities left and all the remedies that will be implemented have to be shown to be protective of human health and environment,” Hamrick said.

“Before we have our license terminated there cannot be any remedial activities left and all the remedies that will be implemented have to be shown to be protective of human health and environment,” Hamrick said.

From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

According to an analysis submitted to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in November, removing tailings from the Cotter Corp., Uranium Mill site south of Cañon City would be prohibitive due to both cost and danger to workers, the public and the environment. Cotter submitted the analysis to CDPHE at the department’s request, said Cotter Vice President of Milling John Hamrick. It is part of the process of updating plans to decommission to the site. According to the analysis, there is an estimated 10,061,000 cubic yards of material in the company’s Main Impoundment, weighing about 15,292,720 tons…

Cotter used the example of the Moab, Utah, Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation Project to make its estimates. “That’s the only yardstick we have,” Hamrick said.

Using that standard, they estimate it would take 5.4 years to move the materials from the Cotter facility and would require 455 trucks or one 114-car freight train every day, five days a week to complete the project. The document estimates the cost of moving the tailings no more than 30 miles would be at least $895 million. The cost estimate was made understanding that no site has been considered or researched…

Gary Baughman, director of the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of CDPHE, said leaving the impoundments in place and sealing the ponds for permanent storage are provisions contained within Cotter’s radioactive materials license.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cañon City: Cotter Corp, Inc. gets Colorado’s blessing to decommission their mill site at Lincoln Park

February 3, 2013

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

Cotter applied for termination of its operating license in January 2012 after announcing it did not intend to resume uranium milling operations at the site. Therefore, the license was amended to delete references to operations and to shift existing requirements from operations to decommissioning and reclamation.

“Amending Cotter’s license coordinates regulatory activities and the facility decommissioning and closure process,” said Gary Baughman, Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division director. “The state, EPA and Cotter will now focus on the planning and work that needs to be done to successfully terminate the license, close out the Consent Decree from 1988 and remove the site from the National Priorities List.”

Because Cotter is no longer authorized to operate the mill, the license was amended to delete references to operations and to shift existing requirements from operations to decommissioning and reclamation.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Cañon City: Cotter Corp, Inc. gets Colorado’s blessing to decommission their mill site at Lincoln Park

January 30, 2013

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

otter Corp. has the green light to decommission its uranium mill. “The Colorado Department of Public Health has issued an amended radioactive materials license to Cotter to reflect current activities,” said Jeannie Natterman, public information specialist. “It is a housekeeping measure since they are not processing ore anymore. “Now it is a decommissioning and reclamation license,” she said.

Cotter officials will continue to address radon releases from the impoundments, daily perimeter inspections as well as groundwater testing. In addition, Cotter workers are finishing the demolition of old buildings, which are being placed into the primary impoundment, Natterman said. “Amending Cotter’s license coordinates regulatory activities with the decommissioning and closure process,” explained Gary Baughman, hazardous materials division director.

State, federal and Cotter officials now will focus on the planning and work that needs to be done to successfully terminate the license and remove the site from the federal Superfund list. The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community have been a Superfund site since 1988. A steering committee also is revamping the Community Advisory Group, whose 12 to 15 members will review cleanup studies and proposed methods of cleanup to the regulatory agencies.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: Change in state molybdenum standards slated for February 2013

October 17, 2012

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

In February 2013, the size and shape of the molybdenum plume in Lincoln Park ground water will shrink because of changes in state standards.
Previously, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission had set the standard at 35 micrograms of molybdenum per liter of water. Effective Feb. 1, 2013, that will change to 210 micrograms per liter of water. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s enforcement level is 100 micrograms per liter of water.

In addition to Colorado Standard, the Cotter Mill, which is the original source of the Lincoln Park plume, also must comply with NRC standard. The levels must be at least as restrictive as the state standards. Because the NRC level is now more restrictive than the state standards the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment will require Cotter to meet the 100 micrograms per liter of water level.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A new cleanup standard for molybdenum levels in groundwater has drastically reduced the size of a cleanup area contaminated by the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill.

The mill and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community became a part of a federal Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup site in 1984 after molybdenum and uranium contamination seeped from unlined tailings ponds into the groundwater.

As of Feb. 1, the state Water Quality Control Commission standard for cleanup of molybdenum in water will be 210 micrograms per liter, up from the previous standard of 35 micrograms per liter, according to a fact sheet issued by state health officials Tuesday.

Despite the change, Cotter will be required to clean up groundwater at any reading above 100 micrograms per liter because that standard is required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A map included with the fact sheet shows two small plumes targeted for cleanup.

“This means that 16 wells previously included in the more conservative standard are now outside the plume boundary. Only six wells are inside the Lincoln Park plume,” according to the fact sheet.
“I object to this change in the moly standard for groundwater as I believe from studies I’ve read that it will have an adverse impact on health (of people) through bones, gout and arthritis when drinking well water at this level,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co­chair of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “This will allow Cotter to avoid protective cleanup.”

The fact sheet indicates the most common negative health effect from consuming too much molybdenum for a long period of time is gout.

Wells that are located within the contamination area are not being used for human consumption. Instead residents have been hooked up to the city water supply.

“Groundwater contaminate levels in most areas have been decreasing even though there is no active groundwater cleanup action in place in the area,” according to the fact sheet.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill update: Concerned citizens balk at Cotter rep on steering committee related to decommissioning

September 28, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Citizens objections to Cotter Corp. having a representative on a steering committee nominating members for a new Community Advisory Group have made health officials want to rethink the idea.

State and federal health officials hosted a public meeting to get input on reforming the Community Advisory Group that will be the community voice for weighing in on the decommissioning plans for the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill. Because the mill’s Manager John Hamrick was listed as a steering committee member, citizens raised questions about whether that would be ethical because Cotter is the responsible party for the clean up.

“This is a trust issue,” Paul Carestia of Canon City told health officials.

Although EPA Regional Superfund Remedial Program Director Bill Murray said that health officials felt it was appropriate to have a Cotter representative, Dr. Chris Urbina, state health department executive director, said he would like more time to think about the steering committee makeup.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cañon City: Hearing for de-commissioning of Cotter Mill is Thursday

September 25, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

State and federal health officials will host a public meeting this week to work toward putting together a community advisory group to help guide the Cotter Corporation Uranium Mill’s decommissioning process. The meeting, at 6 p.m. Thursday at Canon City’s City Hall, 128 Main St., will be hosted by Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health officials…

The decommissioning process is expected to take 10 to 15 years and will be guided by both the state health department and the EPA.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


John Hamrick (Cotter Corp) to Florence City Council ‘We do take our environmental responsibilities pretty seriously’

August 21, 2012

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Charlotte Burrous):

“We’ve made a lot of progress on the environmental cleanup that we’re doing out there,” he said. “We still have a ways to go. We do take our environmental responsibilities pretty seriously.

One of the things Cotter has provided is a hook up to the Cañon City water system to anyone in Lincoln Park, who was qualified and had a well out here, he said.

“The historic operation did release radioactive materials and other metals into the environment,” Hamrick said. “The ground water in Lincoln Park does not meet standards yet, but we do meet standards for release of contaminated materials.”

“One of the things that’s been suggested is off-site disposal of the tailings or otherwise picking up all the tailings and material and taking it elsewhere,” Hamrick said. “Right now, we’ve got more than 90 percent of our contaminants already stabilized. Excavating those materials, whether by truck or by train results in exposure to workers, the environment and the public. That doesn’t have to happen under the plans. Cotter owes the state another look at what off-site disposal would mean. We will be submitting that to the Department of Health for their review and approval. All told, we have about 10 million cubic yards or 15 million tons that will be contained in the impoundments.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Cañon City: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site ‘path forward’ public meeting Thursday

July 15, 2012

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The community has an opportunity to meet and discuss the proposed path forward for Cotter Corp., at a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Abbey. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Cotter have been working to develop a road map for laying out the most comprehensive and efficient path forward for completing the remediation of the Cotter site…

A public comment period will be open until Aug. 19. The draft document will be available on the CDPHE website, http://www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/cotter/index.htm, Monday.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: The EPA, et. al., are hoping to chart out a new project roadmap

June 24, 2012

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Wrangling over cleanup of radioactive waste at one of Colorado’s worst environmental disasters grew so irksome this past spring that Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Environmental Protection Agency, Cotter Corp. and Cañon City residents have declared a timeout. The official purpose is to reset the whole process for dealing with Cotter’s former uranium mill near the Arkansas River. The EPA deployed a private facilitator to create a new “road map” for finally completing a Superfund cleanup started in 1984. But the “pause” in cleanup actions, which otherwise were supposed to be done in March, is failing to quell conflict.

Cañon City residents point to recent data — collected by Cotter and accepted by state regulators — that show uranium contamination in groundwater exceeding health standards. “My well has been contaminated for decades, and they have no plans to actively clean up the groundwater, which could be done,” said Sharyn Cunningham, 65, who runs Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste and whose family previously produced alfalfa on irrigated land.

And accusations fly alleging that decisions may already have been made to bury waste permanently in an impoundment pond at the mill site, rather than considering its removal. The citizens group contends that the impoundment is leaking. Cotter’s top official said in a recent interview that the company favors burying waste in the impoundment, capping it with clay and turning over the site to the federal government…

The “pause” declared by Hickenlooper “was needed so we could provide a clear road map for how all of the actions taking place as part of the cleanup fit together,” spokesman Eric Brown wrote in an e-mailed response to queries.
This was done partly “so the community would not worry that important cleanup work was being done without their input.”

Some monitoring and cleanup activites continue.

“Once we have a road map, we will lift the pause and the community will have a better sense for how each cleanup document and proposal fits with the larger cleanup efforts under all laws and programs,” Brown wrote.
Eventually, the CDPHE and Cotter will conduct an analysis of alternatives, including costs and environmental aspects of moving waste to off-site disposal locations, he said.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Cotter closing their mill near Cañon City depends on state and federal coordination of superfund designation, radioactive materials license and the court consent decree

March 20, 2012

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

There must be a termination of the radioactive materials license, the court must close out the consent decree for the remedial action plan and the site must be deleted from the National Priorities — Superfund — List…

[Steve Tarlton, radiation program manager of the hazardous materials and waste management division of CDPHE] said there are four general things that need to be taken care of: the facility; the impoundments; the contaminated soil and the contaminated water…

The department is developing a “roadmap” of what the termination process with look like beginning with a determination of what is known and where the holes are. Tarlton said that characterization would become a public document. The next step will be to define possible remedies and their feasibility, with additional public comment. Then comes the choice of remedies, which includes more public input. Finally, the chosen remedies will be implemented…

The cleanup process for the Superfund site will include the groundwater contamination in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Tarlton said the contamination in the groundwater there includes molybdenum and uranium, “not in very high levels but above drinking water standards.”[...]

Once the work is done, the impoundment sites will be turned over to the Department of Energy for long-term care.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Cotter Mill history: The mill first processed uranium for the U.S. nuclear weapons program

March 4, 2012

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Here’s the first part of a new series, a look back at the history of the Cotter Mill near Cañon City now that the mill is being decommissioned, from Rachel Alexander writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Construction on the Cotter uranium mill south of Cañon City began in April 1958. By the end of that year, the mill had processed 7,700 tons of uranium ore. Now the company is moving into the process of terminating its radioactive materials license and getting off of the National Priority List.

“There were a lot of thorium deposits in this area,” said Cotter’s Vice President of Milling John Hamrick of the choice of the location. At the time, in the early days of the nuclear industry, it was unclear whether the standard fuel would be uranium or thorium based.

Early on, the mill processed uranium ore into yellowcake — U3O8 — for the federal government. “The mills in that era were operated by the Atomic Energy Commission for weapons,” Cain said…

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was discovered that ground water supplies in the Lincoln Park neighborhood had been contaminated by the operations at the mill. The water was discovered to be contaminated with uranium and molybdenum from the mill along Sand Creek and affecting the private wells in the area. Overexposure to either element could cause heavy metal poisoning. The site and the Lincoln Park neighborhood was added to the National Priorities — or Superfund — List in 1984.

More nuclear coverage here.


Cañon City: The CDPHE extends the public comment period for the shut down of the Cotter Mill

February 16, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain:

The deadline has been extended from Friday to March 2 for comment on a new evaporation pond design, an on-site soil excavation and groundwater characterization plan and soil remediation criteria. In addition, public comment can be provided on a new document, dealing with a groundwater remediation water management analysis, which will be posted Friday at http://www.cdphe. state.co.us/hm/cotter/index.htm.

Comments should be submitted to Steve Tarlton, radiation program manager, Colorado Department of Public Health, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246 or via email to steve.tarlton@state.co.us.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


John Hamrick (Cotter Corp): ‘We see things are getting a lot better — The amount of uranium out there is a lot less’

February 11, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

“We are committed to cleaning up our mill,” mill manager John Hamrick said during a public meeting Thursday in Canon City. “We do take this obligation very seriously and we want to be able to demonstrate the remedial action is compliant with the health and safety standards,” Hamrick said.

About 50 people attended the latest in a series of public meetings planned to provide the public updates on the clean-up plan…

Some members of the public charged that contaminated water is leaking from the site to adjacent neighborhoods. State regulators rejected the charge. “A leak has not been demonstrated,” [Department of Public Health Hazardous Materials Division Chief Steve Tarlton] said. “It is possible, so more study is being done. But we are convinced it is not conclusive that there is a leak.”[...]

Hamrick showed a 1975 map of groundwater contamination spread and compared it to a 2010 map. “We see things are getting a lot better. The amount of uranium out there is a lot less and it is not like things are spread out, things are getting better,” Hamrick said.

More coverage from Rachel Alexander writing for The Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

The documents under review by CDPHE, the Environmental Protection agency and the public are the New Evaporation Pond Conceptual Design; the Onsite Soil Excavation and Groundwater Characterization Process Plan; and the Soil Remediation Criteria Selection.

This is the first round of documents that are being developed by Cotter as part of the process to terminate its radioactive materials license and the deletion of the site from the Superfund list. About 50 people attended the meeting.

“This is a process as we get down the road and try to figure out how to clean up this site,” said CDPHE public information officer Jeannine Natterman. “We’re going forward together with this.”

“We’re reviewing these documents at the same time you are,” said Steve Tarlton, radiation program manager of the hazardous materials and waste management division of CDPHE.

Tarlton and Cotter’s Vice President of Milling John Hamrick made brief presentations about the three documents and the decisions that the department will be making before a question and answer period was conducted.

“It is our understanding that the public wants to be more involved in the document reviews,” Tarlton said.

“We have been producing documents and will be producing documents for review by CDPHE,” Hamrick said. “I’m here to tell you tonight that we’re committed to cleaning up our mill. We do take this obligation very seriously and intend to be able to close this mill in compliance with all standards.”

More nuclear coverage here and here.


On Thursday CDPHE is hosting the first public meeting for decommissioning the Cotter Mill near Cañon City

February 7, 2012

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

The meeting, to be hosted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at Garden Park High School, 201 N. Sixth St. The meeting will focus on the conceptual design for a new evaporation pond, on-site soil excavation, soil remediation criteria and groundwater characterization…

Cotter officials indicate in their report that preliminary assessment of radiological soil cleanup criteria designed to meet the higher standards could mean the potential of cleanup of vast amounts of uneven soils, environmental degradation across much of Cotter property, negative environmental impacts to adjacent lands, increased risks to public health and excessive cost. In relation to the groundwater characterization, Cotter proposes to use 10 water monitoring wells, one of which is at the neighboring Shadow Hills Golf Course, to test contamination levels.

The reports to be focused on at the meeting can be downloaded at www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/cotter/index.htm or at the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center, 612 Royal Gorge Blvd. which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

For those who cannot attend the meeting, written public comments will be accepted through Feb. 17 and can be mailed to Steve Tarlton, CDPHE, 4300 Cherry Creek Drive South, Denver, CO 80246 or emailed to steve.tarlton@state.co.us.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Whit Gibbons: ‘Why do we need the Environmental Protection Agency?’

January 29, 2012

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From the Tuscaloosa News (Whit Gibbons). Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Want to have cancer-causing, bird-killing DDT sprayed in your neighborhood? How about having high levels of brain- damaging mercury dumped into your favorite fishing spot? What about paper mill wastes clogging up rivers and fouling the air people breathe?

These health hazards were once commonplace in communities throughout our country. That they are no longer the hazards they once were is due in no small part to the Environmental Protection Agency, which protects us from these and other environmental abuses. Without EPA oversight, the United States would be a much less healthy place to live.

Those who believe we do not need federal regulation of activities that can turn the country into a toxic waste dump are likely unaware of the far-reaching environmental and human health consequences of such actions. They may also not want to accept the fact that some individuals and many corporations will put profit ahead of all other considerations–including the health and well-being of the general populace.

More Environmental Protection Agency coverage here.


Cotter terminating Cañon City radioactive materials license at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

December 17, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

A letter from Cotter president Amory Quinn says Cotter “will not seek to renew” the radioactive materials license Cotter has from the state health department. Cotter plans to decommission and decontaminate the mill site and to request license termination, Quinn said in the Dec. 12 letter…

The decision marks a possible turning point in a long-running controversy over the mill.

Cañon City residents opposed to the mill applauded the move.”We think this is the first sign of serious progress on getting this place cleaned up. They have stated now that they are going away. The challenge is to see that they clean it up properly before they do,” said Sharyn Cunningham, leader of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, who praised Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office “for engaging” on the issue…

Cotter’s operating license expires Jan. 31. The company could have submitted a renewal application 30 days before the expiration. Now the company must submit a decommissioning plan and schedule, the state health department said this morning. Under the state Radiation Control Act, decommissioned uranium mill sites must be thoroughly cleaned up and restored at the operator’s expense.

For months, Cotter work crews have been jack-hammering concrete foundations and ripping apart contaminated remaining buildings a the mill. Quinn’s letter says that, by Dec. 31, only eight structures will remain at the site. The work aims to consolidate all waste in a massive impoundment pond. Next year, workers are expected to dig out toxic soil and bury that, too. The dismantling work has cost about $3.5 million, according to Cotter mill manager John Hamrick, and eventually will include construction of a new evaporative waste pond to store water pumped from a potentially contaminated creek that flows near Cotter’s property.

Here’s the release from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (Jeannine Natterman):

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced today Cotter Corp. has notified the department of its decision to terminate its Cañon City Uranium Mill radioactive materials license.

The current license expires Jan. 31, 2012, and Cotter was faced with submitting a renewal application 30 days prior to that expiration date. Instead, Cotter now must submit a decommissioning plan and schedule as defined in the regulations.

“This is good news for the Cañon City community,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said. “We appreciate Cotter Corp.’s containment and cleanup efforts and look forward to the company’s continued involved in the community as remediation and decommissioning activities occur over the next 10 to 15 years.”

The decision not to seek licensure sets the mill on a course for closure. The Radiation Control Act requires decommissioned uranium mill sites to be thoroughly cleaned up and restored at the operator’s expense.

“A comprehensive, meaningful public involvement process will be followed for the license termination,” said Steve Tarlton, radioactive materials program manager for the department’s Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division. “Through transparent and open communication, the state is committed to getting community input as the termination process moves forward.”

The current license conditions will remain in effect beyond the expiration date until the Department of Public Health and Environment notifies Cotter in writing that the license is terminated. No operations are allowed under the current license conditions and the termination process precludes restarting operations.

Specific documents required in the decommissioning plan must be submitted to the department and made available for public review and comment prior to any final approval. The documents include:

• An on-site conceptual characterization plan that describes how Cotter will address on-site and windblown soils, and on-site groundwater — due Dec. 19, 2011
• An impoundment reclamation plan that includes an alternative disposal analysis – due March 31, 2012
• A review and documentation of historic cleanup actions – due March 31, 2012 • A contaminated groundwater cleanup analysis – due Feb. 17, 2012

For more background and technical information about the Cotter Cañon City Uranium Mill, see: www.cdphe.state.co.us/hm/cotter/licenseinfo.htm.

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We are just beside ourselves,” said Sharyn Cunningham of Canon City, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, an opposition group that formed 10 years ago to fight a Cotter proposal to bring new radioactive waste to the mill for disposal. “Finally, we can focus on a really good cleanup, set out by absolute standards and planning that will involve public participation,” Cunningham said. “The mill has been in no man’s land for so long and I just feel so happy about this.”

“I have worked on (opposing) this for 40 to 50 hours a week for years and I just never let up. We all worked together and kept applying pressure,” Cunningham said.

State health officials have been overseeing the cleanup of “legacy” contamination at the Cotter mill and the neighboring Lincoln Park community, which became part of a Superfund site in 1984 after the 1958-79 use of unlined tailings impoundments allowed uranium and molybdenum contamination to seep into the groundwater…

“If the mill is headed to decommissioning, I certainly hope the finances are in place to see the reclamation is paid for,” said Ed Norden, Fremont County Commission chairman. “I doubted we would ever see uranium processing out there again since there has been so much cleanup and I hope the company is committed to reclamation and the financial obligation that goes with that.” Cotter employs a dozen workers and makes use of contractors for specific jobs.

Norden said he knows some residents in the community will be disappointed there will never be high-paying mill jobs at Cotter again. “But it will be interesting to see how many jobs are created through the cleanup and reclamation. I think it is going to be a massive project,” Norden said.

More coverage from the Associated Press via The Durango Herald. From the article:

Cotter once processed uranium for weapons and fuel at the mill. Federal authorities placed the mill on a national list for Superfund cleanups in 1984 after radioactive materials traced to the mill were found to have contaminated the soil and groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eventually turned oversight of cleanup work to state officials. Uranium hasn’t been processed at the mill since 2006. The state requires sites that are being decommissioned to be thoroughly cleaned and restored at the operator’s expense. It’s expected to be a multimillion-dollar effort. One of Cotter’s first steps will be to submit a conceptual characterization plan describing how Cotter will address on-site and windblown soils and on-site groundwater. That’s due Monday.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: The dismantling of contaminated strutures has cost Cotter $3.5 million so far

November 9, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Cotter Corp. crews this week jack-hammered concrete foundations and ripped apart contaminated remaining buildings at their uranium mill, pushing to consolidate all waste in a massive impoundment pond by year’s end.

Next year, workers will dig out toxic soil 4 feet deep and bury that too, said John Hamrick, Cotter’s vice president for mill operations, outlining a dismantling project that he said has cost $3.5 million so far.

The project eventually will include construction of a new evaporative waste pond to store water pumped from a potentially contaminated creek that flows near Cotter’s property, Hamrick said…

Ten new groundwater-testing wells are to be built in a nearby urban neighborhood to monitor toxic plumes, along with additional wells west of the mill, where the latest underground plume of cancer-causing trichloroethylene was discovered last year…

State health department regulators have let Cotter deliberate on whether to reopen or embark on total cleanup and restoration of the site. But now Cotter’s operating license is about to expire. Cotter must decide by January whether to renew or to move toward reclamation and closure…

Federal authorities during the Cold War backed creation of the mill to process uranium for nuclear weapons. In 1984, the mill was deemed a Superfund environmental disaster. Toxic metal waste contaminated residential wells near Cañon City.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


CPDHE is requiring ten new monitoring wells as a condition of approval for Cotter’s license renewal at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

November 4, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Steve Tarlton, state health department radiation control program manager, wanted to assure those attending a public meeting Wednesday that both surface water and groundwater is prevented from moving off the mill site by an earthen dam and a pumpback system located between the mill site and the Lincoln Park neighborhood. He said no new contamination is leaving the site.

Cotter Corp.’s license will expire in early 2012, so company officials must submit a renewal application by the end of this year. State health officials also want a better look at the “legacy” contamination in the neighboring Lincoln Park community, which became part of the Superfund cleanup site in 1984 after the 1958 to 1979 use of unlined tailings impoundments allowed uranium and molybdenum contamination to seep into the groundwater.

“Ten new wells will be drilled in Lincoln Park and we will examine test results to try to get good data to define the edges of the contamination plume,” Ethington said. The hydrology of the area is controlled by the leaking of irrigation ditches, but one irrigation ditch — the Pump Ditch — may be blocking contamination from escaping the Lincoln Park neighborhood. “I believe it is like a dam that is obstructing movement,” Ethington explained, pointing out that officials want to figure out how to allow the contamination to get out of the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

“A hundred years down the line what is that (Arkansas) river going to be like? And a thousand years from now people will be saying what in the hell were those guys thinking,” asked Tony Belaski, a local resident.

“I have no answer for how long it will take to get to the river. We thought it would be diluted by now — that is something we need to figure out,” Tarlton said. Tarlton said the diluting power of the Arkansas River will be much more powerful than the springs and runoff affecting groundwater in Lincoln Park.

Tarlton said officials will look for alternatives to capture groundwater sooner at the mill site before it flows away and becomes more difficult to deal with. Among alternatives that will be considered are trenching, a new evaporation pond and a water treatment facility which would be costly, Tarlton said. “All the alternatives will be evaluated during the license renewal,” Tarlton said…

State health officials said there will be several opportunities for the public to comment during meetings throughout the license renewal process. The process also will include an environmental impact assessment, Tarlton said…

And finally, state officials want to investigate the potential source of a separate groundwater plume found under the Shadow Hills Golf Course which sits just south of the mill site. “That plume only has uranium in it so it is probably a different source. It is the kind of material derived more from an ore rather than the processing of ore,” Ethington explained.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site: There is little evidence that containment ponds are leaking according to CPDHE

November 3, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

About 50 people attended an update meeting Wednesday night hosted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency. A major topic of concern to those in attendance was whether the ponds leak. “I don’t see any significant evidence of a release,” said Edgar Ethington, environmental protection specialist for the state health department.

Using magnesium as the “best geochemical indicator of impoundment water” presence, Ethington said he tested at several sites all along the impoundment edges at depths up to 70 to 80 feet. Magnesium levels in the impoundment water are 60,000 to 100,000 parts per million and all but one of the edge test sites produced magnesium levels of 200 parts per million. “If the impoundment was leaking that would be sky high and it isn’t. There is minor evidence of a leak at one well that is twice what the others are (400 parts per million),” Ethington explained.

“Is it strong evidence — no — but I always make the conservative assumption. So in the license renewal phase I will ask Cotter (officials) to look at how much water is moving through there and where it is going,” Ethington said.

During his presentation, Steve Tarlton, state health department radiation control program manager, said both surface water and groundwater is prevented from moving off the mill site by an earthen dam and a pumpback system located between the mill site and the Lincoln Park neighborhood. “Surface water and groundwater are pumped back before it leaves the site,” Tarlton said…

Cotter has no immediate plans to reopen, [Cotter Mill Manager John Hamrick] said, but Cotter officials continue to study whether building a new mill would be economically feasible. Hamrick said Colorado Health Department Executive Director Chris Urbina toured the mill site Wednesday and Gov. John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff Roxane White will visit the site Nov. 11 to gauge remediation progress.

More coverage from Rachel Alexander writing for the Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

Edgar Ethington, an environmental protection specialist with CDPHE, described the investigation into a possible leak in the primary impoundment. “We’re not seeing any indication of significant release,” Ethington said…

Steve Tarlton, radiation control program manager at CDPHE, said Cotter’s license is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2012. They are required to submit a renewal application by Dec. 31. Once the department receives the application, they have 45 days to determine if the application is complete. Within 45 days after that, a public meeting must be conducted, with a second one organized within 30 days of the first meeting. The county commissioners have 90 days after the first public meeting to submit comments on the environmental report. The department will have 360 days after the second public meeting to issue their decision.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


CPDHE: Cotter Mill public meeting November 2, no official announcement about possible reopening

October 28, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

According to Jeannine Natterman, public information officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health, “As far as I know, no,” Cotter is not planning to reopen the mill. Natterman said in March 2009, Cotter officials notified the state they intended to rebuild the mill and process ore from the Mount Taylor Mine located near Grants, N.M.

Officials continue to leave the reopening option available, but have not made a final determination on whether such a move would be feasible for the company.

“That’s how they (Cotter officials) are avoiding announcing a full-blown closure,” said Sharyn Cunningham, co-chair of Colorado Citizen’s Against Toxic Waste.

Cotter officials must renew the mill’s radioactive material’s license through the state health department and will be required to submit an application by Dec. 31. The license is required for Cotter to continue cleanup work on the mill property, Natterman said, and the license also would be required for the eventual reopening of the mill…

EPA and state health officials have slated topics of discussion for a public meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Harrison School, 920 Field Ave., which will include the renewal process for the company’s radioactive materials license. Also slated for discussion are decommissioning, the status of impoundments used to store radioactive tailings and the latest data on the Lincoln Park groundwater situation.

Yesterday, Karen Crummy reported in The Denver Post that Cotter officials were planning to reopen the mill. She cited the 2009 letter about processing ore from New Mexico. Here’s an excerpt:

Additionally, Hickenlooper said he will dispatch his chief of staff, Roxane White, to the Cotter Mill next month to evaluate cleanup efforts at the site declared a Superfund environmental disaster in 1984. “This is very important to the people down there,” he said. “I’m definitely looking at it, and Roxane is looking at it, so we can understand it in some detail and assure ourselves that there isn’t risk to human health or the environment.”[...]

Cotter is currently demolishing its buildings and disposing of the debris in one of the leaking tailing ponds. In a June 24 letter, Cotter said it intended to “maintain its Radioactive Materials License for the purpose of processing Mount Taylor ore.”[...]

Western Mining Action Project attorney Jeff Parsons said he believes Cotter is trying to drag out final shutdown of the mill to avoid what are expected to be detailed reviews of the cleanup. Because the mill is a Superfund site, the EPA must sign off on final plans.

“This is Cotter’s way of trying to push off the serious work, and the state is enabling them by not looking into the claim about Mount Taylor,” said Parsons, who is representing residents suing to force Cotter to post a larger bond to guarantee cleanup of land and water near the mill.

More coverage of next Wednesday’s public meeting from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at Harrison School, 920 Field Ave. Representatives from the state Department of Public Health and Environment and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will lead the meeting.

Topics of discussion at the formal meeting Wednesday will include the renewal process for the company’s radioactive materials license. Also slated for discussion are decommissioning, the status of impoundments used to store radioactive tailings and the latest data on the Lincoln Park ground water situation. Health officials will include an update on the northwest ground water contamination plume under the neighboring Shadow Hills Golf Course just south of the mill. Another topic of discussion will be the recent presence of TCE, or trichloroethene, in ground water at the mill. TCE is an industrial solvent generally used to remove grease from metal. According to a July report generated for Cotter by an environmental consultant, trichloroethene has been detected in ground water at levels that exceed EPA limits. The report also said the source of the TCE contamination has not been identified. In July, a phased soil gas investigation was proposed to identify potential sources of the contamination and to further map out the extent of the ground water plume. The meeting also will include a Superfund cleanup update. There also will be time for local citizens to speak privately to either state health or EPA representatives.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill: State regulators, ‘…ignored warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency, independent firms and their own engineers,’ according to The Denver Post

October 23, 2011

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Here’s an exposé from Karen Crummy writing for The Denver Post. Click through and read the whole thing. They’re running a series of photos and a aerial view of the area. Check out the cool photo of the construction of one of the leaky ponds. Here’s an excerpt:

Allowing the radioactive waste to remain on site is just the latest chapter in a 50-year saga during which regulators for the state, which owned the land during 20 years that Cotter polluted it, ignored warnings from the Environmental Protection Agency, independent firms and their own engineers.

The result is that while polluted sites such as Rocky Flats became a national model for nuclear decontamination and towns like Grand Junction and Leadville evolved from environmental tragedies to recreation destinations, the cleanup of Cotter has dragged on for nearly 30 years and is at least a decade away from completion. “They were great people. They helped the industry a lot,” said Richard Ziegler, the former executive vice president of Cotter who left the firm six years ago, regarding state health regulators.

State regulators say the ponds’ leaks do not pose an immediate threat because residents no longer drink well water. “Cotter is isolated and not as environmentally dangerous” as some other sites, said Steve Tarlton, who has overseen the Superfund site for the state since 2003…

When Cotter moved to expand its mill in 1978, the EPA issued its first of many warnings ignored by the state: Consider moving the mill to a different site because of the “significant” health concerns, wrote David Wagoner, the EPA’s director of air and hazardous materials. The CBI also asked Al Hazle, head of the radiation control department, not to issue Cotter a new license until the bureau received documents it requested from Cotter. He agreed. The next day, Hazle granted the license. In a 1981 report commissioned by the EPA, the health department questioned why Hazle was not heeding advice from Robert Shukle with the state’s water quality division. Shukle inundated his boss with memos about Cotter’s shortcomings, repeatedly informing the radiation chief that Cotter was continuing to flout regulations, especially by its refusal to put “tracer” chemicals in the newly constructed impoundment ponds to see whether they were leaking.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill Superfund site coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter Corp, Inc. cited for spill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

August 19, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials charged with overseeing a Superfund cleanup at the site issued the notice of violation because Cotter’s operating permit requires properly functioning equipment. But because Cotter notified department officials as required, documented the problem and fixed the broken equipment, “no further enforcement actions are anticipated,” health department spokeswoman Jeannine Natterman said. The uranium-tainted water will not add to the contamination that in the past reached groundwater in neighborhoods near Cañon City, Natterman said. An underground clay barrier installed in the 1980s and the pumping system will contain toxic material, she said.

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

The accident happened when the lid to a vault containing pumps for the “pumpback” system was inadvertently left open overnight, causing the flange to freeze and rupture. The problem was discovered the next morning by Cotter personnel and corrected…

“This condition on the Cotter license is more strict than at any other uranium recovery facility and is not required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or Colorado regulations,” Tarlton explained. Cotter employees maintain a pumpback system to capture contaminated groundwater and pump it back to the primary impoundment for evaporation. This system prevents groundwater contaminated by pre-1978 operations from further contaminating the neighboring Lincoln Park groundwater.

More nuclear coverage here here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp. wants to stop testing inactive leaky and toxic impoundment pond

August 9, 2011

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

“As you are aware, the pool of water in the impoundment has diminished by evaporation to the extent that only the addition of base material has maintained the pool and consequently the head,” [Radiation Safety Officer Jim Cain] said in the letter. “In addition, introduction of base material to the pool has become inefficient and we have no means to improve the delivery.”

Steve Tarlton, of CDPHE, said the pH monitoring was necessary when the pond was in active use, but it is no longer operating. “Since they started dewatering the ponds, maintaining the pH is not critical,” he said. “The pH issue has gone away. We don’t want them to add water to the pond if they don’t have to. It makes sense to stop monitoring.”

CDPHE officials are looking at the monitoring issue in conjunction with the company’s dewatering plan and they expect to make a decision in the next few weeks.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site cleanup focusing on groundwater pollution with an eye towards discontinuing pumping

August 6, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

A top priority, according to Mill Manager John Hamrick, is to move away from having to pump contaminated groundwater that slips past a failed treatment wall and is then moved back onto the mill property. The site is called the dam-to-ditch area which is located between an earthen dam and an irrigation ditch which divides the mill property from the Lincoln Park neighborhood. “We’re investigating the best way to clean it up so the goal will be to eventually quit pumping. It is a small area and the plume is small there but the concentrations (of uranium and molybdenum) have remained the same — they are just sitting there,” Hamrick said. On Monday, Cotter officials notified the state public health department that they have a plan to clean up the dam-to-ditch site…

Cotter officials also are delving into the presence of TCE in groundwater underneath the mill. TCE stands for trichloroethylene and it was first detected in October 2010. “We are investigating the nature and extent of the TCE groundwater plume. There are a couple of things that are puzzling about its presence and we are not even sure the contamination is ours,” Hamrick said. Cotter officials also seek to stop pH testing in the primary waste impoundment. State health officials have ordered Cotter to neutralize the pH level in the impoundment but that requires the injection of a liquid containing lime. “That is going against another order we have to dry out the impoundment,” Hamrick explained…

The tailings pond currently is used as a site to dispose of the old mill buildings that are being dismantled. Also, some old, leftover process liquids, such as kerosene, are being mixed with an absorbent and placed into the impoundment in a dry form, Hamrick said, so keeping the drying-out process going is difficult when liquid containing lime has to be injected into the impoundment.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Cotter, Corp. wants to stop testing leaky and toxic impoundment pond

August 5, 2011

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From the Associated Press via The Colorado Springs Gazette:

Cotter is in the process of dismantling its shuttered uranium mill, located south of the Arkansas River near Cañon City.

A makeshift row of wooden pallets leading into the viscous impoundment has sunk into muck, and “it is now unsafe to measure the pH of the pool,” Cotter’s environment coordinator, Jim Cain, said in a July 25 letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Cotter, a subsidiary of San Diego-based defense contractor General Atomics, also notified department regulators that the company will pursue a lower-cost, passive approach to investigating a recently discovered plume of the industrial solvent trichloroethene. According to Cotter documents, TCE was detected in groundwater at levels exceeding federal health limits and has spread to at least one off-site well.

Public health department officials on Wednesday still were considering Cotter’s request to suspend testing, “but it seems like a reasonable request,” department radiation control unit manager Steve Tarlton said. He also said Cotter’s proposed passive approach to investigating TCE contamination is “a good approach,” although future testing and remediation may be necessary.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site 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

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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.”

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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: Judge Roger Hyatt denies CDPHE and Cotter, Corp’s motion to dismiss lawsuit over Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site cleanup

June 13, 2011

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From the Colorado Independent (David O. Williams):

Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT) filed a lawsuit last year trying to get the state to compel Cotter Corp. to establish an aggressive cleanup plan at the EPA Superfund site and provide twice as much in financial assurance to back the project.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Cotter both asked the court to dismiss the case, questioning CCAT’s legal standing. On Friday, District Court Judge Robert Hyatt rejected that motion.

“After considering all of Plaintiffs allegations in the complaint to be true this Court finds a sufficient showing that the Plaintiff is entitled to relief and the Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(5) is DENIED,” District Court Judge Robert Hyatt wrote.

“Instead of telling us that we don’t have an interest in the radioactive contamination of our water and air, the department ought to be working with the public to protect our environment and health. It is regrettable that CDPHE has taken Cotter’s side to keep Colorado citizens out of the decision process,” said Sharyn Cunningham, a CCAT co-chair whose own well water was contaminated by the Cotter Mill.

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

Cotter Corp. has agreed to increase the cleanup bond to $20.8 million from $14.7 million this month to cover the cost of decommissioning the entire mill when it closes. The state estimates the cleanup will cost about $43.7 million, while Cotter estimates it would be $23.2 million.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: Trichloroethene is spreading in the groundwater around the site

April 12, 2011

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From KRDO.com (Joe Dominguez):

It was reportedly found in tests taken at the Shadow Hills Golf Course late last year but just reported to Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment. Cotter had been negotiating for the past few years with state health department officials on how to deal with contaminated ground water. That contamination was uranium found decades earlier. Some residents believe it’s time for someone else to take over…

“I think it’s going to take the federal government because it’s such a big mess,” said [Ethan McClaugherty]…

The main argument between the state and Cotter leaders that has slowed down the plan is how to deal with cleaning up contamination. Cotter wants to use a slower less expensive method while RAP leaders suggest cycling that contaminated water through pumps and machines and putting it back into the ground. This new development could delay those negotiations again. Cotter will now have to do more tests on ground water to determine how widespread the TCE problem is and where it is originating from. No timetable has been set for how long Cotter has to get those answers for the state.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here.


Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site update: Trichloroethene is spreading in the groundwater around the site

April 10, 2011

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

State regulators Friday confirmed [trichloroethene] in the toxic and radioactive waste from the mill, adjacent to Cañon City, and said they’ve asked Cotter to investigate. “It’s in the groundwater. It’s not in the public drinking water supply that we know of,” said Jeanine Natterman, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Cañon City’s 16,000 residents, many of whose wells already are tainted, received no notification. “Nothing surprises me anymore,” because the plant “is like an octopus with 20 arms,” said Sharyn Cunningham, 64, who lives 1 1/2 miles away and co-chairs Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste file amended lawsuit against Cotter Corp over Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

January 20, 2011

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

An amended complaint was filed in Denver District Court Friday by attorneys Travis Stills of the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango and Jeffrey Parsons with the Western Mining Action Project in Lyons, on behalf of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. The defendants are the state health department and Steve Tarlton in his capacity as manager of the state’s radiation control program, plus Cotter Corp. also is listed as a party.

Because Colorado radiation regulations require a decommissioning funding plan that outlines a cost estimate for closing the mill, Cotter and state officials have been working since 2009 to try to pin down an updated cost estimate. However, the lawsuit alleges the bond remains inadequate despite the fact that Cotter Corp. has agreed to up the bond from $14.7 million to $20.8 million by June of this year to cover cost of decommissioning the entire mill when it closes. The state estimated cleanup will cost about $43.7 million while Cotter estimated it would be $23.2 million. On Dec. 15, the state health officials agreed to leave the bond at $20.8 million despite public comment that urged it should be $53 million. “We would like to see them (Cotter Corp.) post the entire $43.7 million at least. It is a federal program the state is implementing and adding a 25 percent contingency (an additional $10.9 million) is standard,” Parsons said. “Both the bonding amount and the way it is calculated are serious problems because they are the first line of defense for the taxpayers of Colorado…

The suit also alleges that decommission work on the old mill is being done without benefit of any kind of updated decommissioning plan since the last plan was inked in 2005. Parsons said there is no current decommissioning plan, final closure plan or reclamation plan. “That is the huge elephant in the room, they (Cotter) are demolishing old buildings, old tanks and putting them in the tailings impoundments and what is going to happen with the tailings impoundment? Currently, they are pumping back contaminated water to adjust for leaking.

More coverage from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

The lawsuit filed in Denver District Court alleges that recent dismantling activity at Cotter’s Cañon City mill is being done without a required plan, presenting a public-health risk as toxic and radioactive waste is dumped into a waste-storage pond. “We have frequent high winds here. I always worry,” said Cañon City resident Sharyn Cunningham, leader of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “We’d like an opportunity to weigh in.”[...]

The lawsuit also contends a plume of toxic groundwater contamination from the mill property — identified in 2008 — is flowing unchecked toward the heart of Cañon City and the Arkansas River…

Cotter president Amory Quinn said the lawsuit “doesn’t have anything to do with us” and confirmed that Cotter is dismantling old structures. He said Cotter hopes to move forward with plans to re-engineer and reopen the mill. The health department’s recent approval of a permit for another company to build a uranium mill in southwestern Colorado should have no effect on Cotter’s plans, Quinn said. “We have done millions of dollars’ worth of remedial work in the past few years, and we are going to continue until it is complete,” he said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


CDC: Don’t drink the water near the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site

September 14, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Members of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste voiced disappointment in a recent health assessment relating to exposure to Cotter Uranium Mill contamination…

The study found that long-term ingestion of contaminated private well water may have put some people in the Lincoln Park neighborhood adjacent to the mill at risk for health problems. Most neighborhood residents use the public water supply and are not exposed to the contaminant, according to the report. “I’m disappointed that the agency ignored our local doctors’ request,” said Carol Dunn, co-chair of Colorado Citizen Against Toxic Waste. “Instead of recommending a study of real people with real health problems, they studied the Cotter Mill’s self-sampling data to see if there was a risk to our health…

The agency will host two open houses to present findings from noon to 2 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Holy Cross Abbey, 2951 E. U.S. 50. Written public comment on the report will be accepted until Nov. 9.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Is Cotter, Corp. going to shutter the mill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site?

August 20, 2010

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Karen Lungu):

John Hamrick, vice president of Cotter mill operations, sent a letter to the director of Air and Toxics Technical Enforcement Program Office of Enforcement Compliance and Environmental Justice, dated July 23, stating, “On June, 30, 2010, Cotter Corporations (N.S.L.) submitted a letter to Mr. Steve Tarlton of the Hazardous Materials and Waste Management Division of Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment notifying him of a change in status of the Primary Impoundment at the Cañon City Milling Facility near Cañon City.” The letter stated that Cotter will “close both the primary and secondary impoundments as soon as reasonably achievable.” Hamrick goes on to say the Cañon City milling facility began dismantling structures and facilities no longer considered useful to the CCMF. The company no longer will carry out radon flux testing, Hamrick said, at the primary impoundment, because the primary impoundment no longer is an active facility that is subject to 40 CFR Part 61, Subpart W requirements.

Previously stating the mill would reopen, Cotter took local lawmakers by surprise when they told regulators it would discontinue testing for radon emissions at the site because it is no longer an active facility subject to regulation. The mill south of Cañon was designated a Superfund site in 1984, making Cotter responsible for continued monitoring of radon emissions at the milling facility, as well as neighboring Lincoln Park.

More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Is Cotter, Corp. going to shutter the mill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site?

August 18, 2010

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Cotter, Corp. has decided to permanently close the mill at the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

Cotter Corp. has informed regulators it will close two toxic-waste impoundment ponds at the mill “as soon as reasonably achievable,” according to a letter Cotter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Cotter, which had previously said the mill would be reopened, now has told state regulators it will stop testing for radon emissions at the site because it is “no longer an active facility” subject to regulation.

The apparent reversal, and Cotter’s decision to stop testing for radon emissions, caught local leaders by surprise. The site has been designated a polluted Superfund site and Cotter has been responsible for monitoring to make sure cancer- causing radon was not escaping the facility.

Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl questioned whether Cotter can stop tests. “That
doesn’t sound right to me.”

More coverage from Tracy Harmon writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“They are working toward closing the impoundments and have been dewatering (drying out) the impoundments for years,” said Jeannine Natterman, public information officer for the Colorado Department of Health. “They have not officially notified us they are closing the (entire) facility.”[...]

Manager John Hamrick said the company will close both the primary and secondary waste impoundments, “as soon as reasonably achievable.” The letter goes on to indicate that radon testing will not be carried out on the primary impoundment this year and in subsequent years because it is no longer an active impoundment. “They have planned to close the impoundments all along and they have been taking old structures down. What the letter means is that they are close to permanently capping the impoundments,” Natterman explained. “Even once capped, the primary impoundment can be used for new, more contemporary operations because it would not have the same material going in. If it is appropriately capped and appropriate materials are used for the cap, the primary impoundment could be used again,” Natterman said.

More nuclear coverage here and here.


Energy policy — nuclear: Governor Ritter inks the deal on HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials)

June 9, 2010

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Update: Here’s a report from Rachel Alexander writing for The Cañon City Daily Record. From the article:

[Governor Ritter] signed the bill at the Whitewater & Kayak Recreation Park as the river roared behind him. “You’re going to be impacted by how we approach uranium milling and how we approach uranium permitting,” he said. The bill was sponsored by Sens. Ken Kester, Bob Bacon and Rep. Buffie McFadyen.

The law requires uranium processors to comply with clean-up orders before new applications are processed, strengthen public oversight of bonding requirements; require processors to inform residents about threats to their water if they have registered wells in close proximity to known groundwater contamination; and require processors to amend their operating license before accepting new sources of “alternate feeds.”

“Nobody thinks uranium is an inherently evil thing, it’s just evil if you lose stewardship of it,” Ritter said. “We believed it was the right thing to move this forward.”

Governor Ritter signed the bill that Cotter Corp claims will prevent them from generating the revenue to fund the cleanup of the Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site near Cañon City. Here’s a report from Bruce Finley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

“This just gives us a better hold on the milling process,” Ritter said before signing the bill, a bipartisan measure sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen, and Sens. Ken Kester and Bob Bacon.

Greenwood Village based Cotter Corp. operates the mill that became a Superfund cleanup site in 1984. During the statehouse battle over the law, Cotter vice president John Hamrick said the legislation would kill Cotter’s proposed project to refurbish the mill and haul 12.5 million tons of uranium ore from New Mexico for processing. Hamrick on Tuesday declined to comment on the status on any future project. But Hamrick said Cotter is now planning to do research at the mill if the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approves.

More coverage from Patrick Malone writing for The Pueblo Chieftain. From the article:

“We should think not about ourselves, but about the generations to come” when it comes to protecting the environment, Ritter said. “It’s incumbent on us to turn this state over to the generation after us and the one that follows in a better way than we found it.”

Under HB1348, Cotter can’t gain permits to expand its operation without first mitigating contamination that already exists. It also must notify residents where groundwater contamination exists of its progress in addressing the problem. The bill also requires Cotter to carry a higher bond that would be sufficient to conduct cleanup efforts. If the mill were to close, the cleanup would be the state’s responsibility, like so many other decommissioned uranium-processing sites throughout the state…

During the past decade, Cotter has been cited about 100 times for environmental violations, but they have been markedly less frequent during the past five years, when a wholesale change of its management team took place. Cotter officials have said the bill hamstrings their intention to take on new materials from Mount Taylor in New Mexico, which would provide the revenue necessary to construct and update an environmentally sound mill.

But residents of Canon City have been fighting for years to get Cotter to clean up the contaminated plumes of groundwater that have been identified. To date, Cotter has chosen to let it dissipate naturally, which could take decades, stretching into centuries.

For the past eight years, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste has pushed for more aggressive measures from Cotter to address the pollution. Tuesday, they saw the fruit of their work. “It’s a culmination of years of paying attention to this site, seeing the problems and looking for solutions,” said Sharyn Cunningham, president of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. “This bill is the solution to the contamination problems here.”

Here’s the video of the signing from Governor Ritter’s office. Here’s the release (Evan Dreyer/Megan Castle):

Gov. Bill Ritter concluded a two-day, five-city tour of southern Colorado this afternoon, visiting the banks of the Arkansas River near the Royal Gorge to sign legislation that will protect waterways and communities by increasing oversight of uranium mills.

“We all want a safe environment for our families, our children and our communities,” Gov. Ritter said before signing House Bill 1348, a bipartisan measure sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen and Sens. Ken Kester and Bob Bacon. “Future Coloradans will want to raft, kayak and fish this river, just as we’re able to do today. It’s up to us to make sure they get that opportunity. This bill will help make that happen.”

HB 1348 requires operators of uranium mills to comply with all clean-up orders before new state permits for expansion or restructuring of operations are processed. The bill also requires operators to inform residents about threats to their water if residents have wells in close proximity to known groundwater contamination.

“We heard Canon City residents testify that the poison from the uranium processing plant has been tainting groundwater for decades,” Rep. McFadyen said. “This bill simply requires uranium processors to clean up the old mess they’ve already made before accepting new materials that will create new waste. Having polluted groundwater harms the health and the economic development of the area. This bill sets the tone for the nation on what to do with uranium groundwater contamination.”

More 2010 Colorado legislation 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

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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: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) clears preliminary vote in the state senate

April 28, 2010

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

The state Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would require Cotter uranium mill to clean up its pollution before taking on new jobs. Proponents of the bill contend Cotter has been poisoning the environment for decades and done little about it, while representatives of the company have said the proposed legislation would be a poison pill for its operation…

The House already has passed the bill, and a final vote on it in the Senate could come as soon as today.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) passes out of state Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee

April 24, 2010

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From The Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

The Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee passed the bill out on a vote of six to one. Matt Garrington, of Environment Colorado, one of the groups supporting the bill, said it could be taken to the floor as early as Monday.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 gets state house approval moves on to the state senate

April 7, 2010

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Bump and update: From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

“Today’s vote is absolutely amazing,” said Matt Garrington, of Environment Colorado, which helped develop the bill. “Never before have we seen such strong bipartisan support on uranium legislation.”[...]

“Uranium processing has left behind a dirty, dangerous legacy in Colorado,” Garrington said. “Today, the Colorado House told the uranium industry that business as usual is not acceptable. This legislation is an important step to help protect Colorado’s air and water from toxic, radioactive uranium pollution.”

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Patrick Malone):

By a vote of 62-2, HB1348 sponsored by state Rep. Buffie McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, advanced. Its next stop will be a Senate committee…

Cotter officials testified before a House committee that the bill would be “a poison pill” for the plant, while Canon City residents testified that the poison from the uranium processing plant has been tainting groundwater there for decades. “I vehemently disagree that this would close the Cotter mill,” McFadyen said. “It doesn’t affect their current operation, and only requires them to clean up the mess they’ve made before accepting new waste they aren’t already permitted to process.”[...]

Under the bill, uranium processors would be required to clean up existing contamination before they are permitted to accept new materials, as Cotter has proposed to do beginning later this year. Company officials have said the expansion would create up to 100 jobs at the uranium processing site that now has 31 employees.

The bill also would require annual reports from processors to residents of areas near groundwater plumes of uranium contamination. They would include updated reports on the status of the contamination and the steps taken to address them. Another portion of the bill requires uranium processors to carry bonds sufficient to pay for cleanup of contamination, rather than saddling taxpayers with the cost.

From State Bill Colorado (Debi Brazzale):

House lawmakers agreed Monday that increased oversight to ensure groundwater is not contaminated from uranium processing is a good thing for Colorado’s water supply, and gave their final approval to House Bill 1348 before it moves to the Senate for consideration. The measure requires that prior to obtaining a license to begin or expand uranium processing operations, the applicant has to show that the existing site is not in violation of existing environmental or public health laws…

Republican Marsha Looper of Calhan told the committee that most of her district derives its water from groundwater, and said the measure is crucial to the state’s agriculture industry. “Water is a precious resource for our state. We need to do our utmost to protect this important resource,” said Looper. Looper went on to say that the processing of uranium ore has a terrible track record when it comes to groundwater contamination. According to Looper, Durango and Grand Junction are seeing increased levels of contamination decades after the uranium operations have ceased. Looper said she welcomes the additional accountability the measure would provide.

More HB 10-1348 coverage here.


Energy policy — nuclear: HB 10-1348 (Increase Oversight Radioactive Materials) passes out of House Transportation and Energy Committee

March 21, 2010

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From the Cañon City Daily Record (Rachel Alexander):

“We had amazing bipartisan support,” said Matt Garrington, of Environment Colorado, one of the groups that developed the bill. The bill also was developed by Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste. It is sponsored by Rep. Buffie McFadyen and Sen. Ken Kester.

Among those who testified for the bill were Fremont County Commissioner Mike Stiehl, CCAT co-founder Sharyn Cunningham and Gloria Stultz.

The bill now will go to the full House for debate and a vote. If it passes there it will go to the Senate committee.

More 2010 Colorado legislation coverage here. More nuclear coverage here and here.


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