Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill update: Cotter to pay ~ $1 million for EPA oversight

Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency
Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site via the Environmental Protection Agency

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Tracy Harmon):

Cotter Corp. has agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nearly $1 million to cover past costs the government agency incurred while working at the Superfund site during a two-year period.

The Cotter Corp. oversees a now-defunct uranium mill just south of Canon City which has been on the EPA’s Superfund cleanup list since 1984. Officials are in the process of decommissioning the mill.

The agreement requires Cotter to pay EPA $957,604 for past oversight costs, incurred between 2012 and 2014. Funds are required to be paid to the EPA by Sept. 23 and will be placed in a special account and used to pay for any future costs at the site, according to Richard Mylott, EPA spokesman.

Public comment submitted in June urged the EPA to seek full restitution.

“The EPA believes the settlement is in the government’s best interest. The EPA will immediately recover $957,604 in past response costs that will be used to fund EPA’s future work at the site and avoid potentially protracted expensive litigation,” according to the 19-page settlement agreement.

One public comment submitted indicated it is difficult for the public to weigh-in on the agreement because government documents were not made available to assess what the total cost of oversight has been to the EPA. Certain EPA billing documents were not made public because of confidential business information which protects the documents from being released under the Freedom of Information Act, according to the agreement.

In a separate agreement, penned in June 2014, Cotter Corp. has agreed to pay EPA’s costs for oversight of the mill’s cleanup into the future.

Cotter produced uranium oxide, or yellowcake, at the mill in Fremont County from 1958 until 2006. Contamination to groundwater and soil resulted from the use of unlined impoundment ponds to hold tailings between 1958 and 1979.

In addition, a June 1965 flood caused the impoundments to overflow into Sand Creek, releasing contaminates into the nearby Lincoln Park neighborhood, Mylott explained.

Cotter officials have been working to clean up contamination since 1988.

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