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


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.

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