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

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From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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