JeffCo uranium mine decision draws praise

Environment Colorado

Local officials and advocates laud mining division for requiring Cotter to take immediate action to clean up water at Schwartzwalder uranium mine

Denver – Uranium pollution contaminating Ralston Creek will see immediate clean-up take place thanks to strong action by the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety.

In a letter released late yesterday, the mining division required the Cotter Corporation to begin active water treatment at its Schwartzwalder uranium mine just west of Arvada by July 31st and rejected Cotter’s proposed cleanup plan for failing to adequately protect water quality.

“The mining division took bold and decisive action to protect our drinking water,” said Jefferson County Commissioner Kathy Hartman. “I am pleased to see immediate action to protect Ralston Reservoir.”

News broke last month that uranium levels had exceeded 1,400 times Colorado water quality standards at the Cotter mine. Uranium pollution in Ralston Creek itself is more than 13 times state standards.

Matt Garrington, program advocate with Environment Colorado and Jefferson County resident, has been advocating for swift action to clean-up the mine.  “Thousands of people depend on clean water from Ralston Reservoir, and we can’t afford for Cotter to drag its feet cleaning up their mess,” said Garrington. “The mining division deserves praise for taking strong action.”

The mining division made the following requirements of Cotter at the Schwartzwalder uranium mine:

  • reinitiate active water treatment by July 31st,
  • update bonding provisions for clean up,
  • increase water quality monitoring, and
  • revise its Environmental Protection Plan according to extensive feedback by August 1st.

In public comments, Denver Water and the City of Arvada both criticized Cotter’s attempts to rely on the water providers to treat the contamination and called on Cotter to instead implement its own active water treatment for clean up.  Denver Water wrote that if Cotter is not required to clean up its own pollution the “financial impact to Denver Water customers could be enormous” for modifying existing municipal water treatment plants to handle additional uranium contamination clean up.

Cotter is bonded at just over $104,000 because its last proposal in 2003 included no plans for water treatment.

Denver Water noted that not all water is treated which flows through Ralston Creek, which means that uranium contamination from Cotter’s mine could reach Clear Creek and eventually