Canon rejects Shattuck waste

Monday, February 28, 2000

By TRACY HARMON The Pueblo Chieftain

CANON CITY - City Council voted unanimously late Monday to urge the federal Environmental Protection Agency not to allow disposal of Shattuck radioactive waste at the Cotter Uranium Mill.

The mill is just south of town in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

The EPA and the City of Denver want to get rid of radioactive waste now being stored on a 6-acre site in Denver. The waste was created by the processing of radium and other chemicals by S.W. Shattuck Chemical Co. and others since the 1920s.

Whether the waste will be placed in a special landfill or whether it will be recycled has not been decided.

The Cotter mill and the International Uranium Corp. mill in Utah are the only two firms considering recycling the Shattuck waste.

Canon City Administrator Steve Rabe said the city's general government committee recommended the resolution objecting to the disposal of Shattuck waste at Cotter.

The resolution reflects "the sense of the city and the sense of the community and is intended to express in the strongest terms possible what the community seems to feel about this particular issue," said John Havens, city attorney.

Seven local citizens urged the council to pass the resolution, including Fremont Economic Development Executive Director Myron Smith, who said, "If we get something like this (Shattuck waste) in the county, it will be real hard to try to attract more people to this area.''

Toni Nunn told council she will present the EPA with a petition that has about 1,000 signatures from local people who oppose moving the waste to Canon City.

Council made its decision despite a reminder from Cotter mill lab manager Phil Krauth that "Cotter is not the only source of radioactivity in this valley. There were natural sources of radioactivity here long before Cotter ever came here.''

The council also heard reassurances from Cotter Corp. manager Paul Blanchette, who said the Shattuck material contains "something less than 20 percent of the radioactivity of the ore we are getting now."

Blanchette said Cotter is doing what it can to alleviate past problems, which led to the mill property and a portion of Lincoln Park being listed as an EPA Superfund cleanup site. He said the problems stem as far back as the 1950s, when Cotter used unlined ponds to store tailings.

Blanchette said that the Cotter mill now uses "state of the art" impoundments.

A report issued earlier this month by Phil Stoffey, hydrogeologist for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, indicates that "there is no evidence of leakage from the primary impoundment at the Cotter uranium mill site."

Stoffey based his conclusion by comparing data from 1985 and 1998, which was gathered from one of eight monitoring wells at the site. The well, which is 60-feet deep, is located downstream from the primary impoundment. And although it "is contaminated from (past) mill operations," there is "no evidence of leakage from the primary impoundment," Stoffey said in the report.

Stoffey said he looks for magnesium, which would be an early warning sign of impending seepage of "slower contaminants of concern." The ground water that Stoffey looked at showed no increase in magnesium; in fact the percent of magnesium was actually lower than in 1985.