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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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