Cotter in open defiance of the law at two uranium sites

Media Releases

Environment Colorado

Denver – Public documents available this past week reveal that Cotter Corp. is refusing to comply with a state agency’s order that it pay fines for failing to clean-up a contaminated uranium mine pool which threatens a creek that feeds Denver Water supplies and with an EPA order for radon testing at its Cañon City uranium processing facility.

“Cotter acts as if it is above the law,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate with Environment Colorado. “Cotter should quit spending money fighting the mining division and start cleaning up their uranium pollution threatening Denver metro area’s drinking water supply.”

In a letter released this week and dated September 10, 2010, the Cotter Corporation wrote to the Mined Land Reclamation Board stating that it “respectfully declines” to pay $55,000 in fines for failing to treat a contaminated pool of water with uranium pollution levels more than 1,200 times state standards.

The Schwartzwalder uranium mine in Jefferson County has been inactive for over ten years, but in April 2010 it was discovered that uranium pollution was contaminating Ralston Creek, which feeds Ralston Reservoir – a drinking water supply for Denver Water and the City of Arvada.

Environment Colorado lauded the response of Loretta Pineda, director of the Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety, for proposing additional violations and penalties to compel Cotter to meet clean-up orders at the mine.

Unfortunately, Cotter is working to skirt the law at multiple sites in Colorado. In a second letter released this week and dated September 10th, 2010, a Washington-based law firm, Thompson & Pugsley, wrote a second letter on behalf of Cotter refusing to comply with orders by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that Cotter continue radon flux testing at its Canon City uranium processing facility.

“Cotter should be spending their money on cleaning up its mess in Canon City instead of DC lawyers,” said Sharyn Cunningham of the Canon City-based Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT). “Cotter is playing political football with our health by refusing to test for the rate of  radon pollution entering our community.”

The U.S. EPA has found that radon, the world’s second leading cause of lung cancer, released at uranium mills can affect public health for residents living within 50 miles of a mill.

“The uranium mining industry in Colorado argues that new regulations are in place since the last uranium boom to protect communities.  Cotter’s actions in openly defying those regulations shows that the industry still has a long way to go before it can be trusted to protect our water and air,” said Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action Project.

The groups called for stronger action by the State of Colorado at both sites, including intervention of the Water Quality Control Division at Schwartzwalder and for the Radiation Management Unit to ensure taxpayers were not on the hook for tens of millions of dollars for clean-up at the Canon City mill.

100910resp2epa.pdf 100910resp2epa.pdf
Cotter-Sept-10-2010-letter.pdf Cotter-Sept-10-2010-letter.pdf
DRMS-Sept-16-2010-RTB-letter.pdf DRMS-Sept-16-2010-RTB-letter.pdf