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County Medical Society opposes uranium mining Print

by Cory D. Carroll, M.D.
Letter to the Editor
Fort Collins Coloradoan
November 7, 2007

What is the value of clean water? Perhaps a more pertinent question is what is the value of contaminated water?

The proposed uranium mining in Weld County will adversely impact our environment. The extent is not completely known, but the historical record is clear; uranium mining leaves behind contamination.

The Larimer County Medical Society was petitioned by physicians as well as residents in our county to look at the issue of uranium mining. On July 15, the LCMS Board of Directors passed a resolution that opposes in-situ and open-pit mining of uranium in our county. Because of the multiple contaminants (uranium, radium, selenium, lead, vanadium, molybdenum, nickel, cadmium, arsenic, etc.) that are disturbed in the mining process and, the fact that these mining operations are dangerously close to population centers, it is critical to shut down this process before any damage is done.

I met with the Powertech executives as well as the Colorado Mining Association at the Colorado Medical Society offices in Denver. The mining industry continues to portray the in-situ and open-pit mining process as safe and innocuous. Only the naïve will believe them.

Powertech has never mined uranium and one of its experts has an interesting history in the uranium industry. Mr. Blubaugh is Powertech's vice president of health, safety and environmental resources. Prior to Powertech, one of his jobs was a vice president of the Atlas Corporation that mined for uranium near Moab, Utah. The following is taken from the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission Web site regarding the Atlas open-pit mine in Utah:

"Atlas' proposed remediation was to stabilize the tailings pile in place to meet the standards in AppendixA. Because the site is located along the Colorado River and some contamination is seeping into the river, various individuals and organizations have mounted significant opposition to reclamation of the site... In September 1998, partly as a result of the costs attributable to defending its remediation proposal, Atlas filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of the settlement of the bankruptcy, NRC, along with the State of Utah agreed to the establishment of a trust, with NRC and Utah as the beneficiaries, which would be responsible for the mill site and its remediation." (Source:www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doccolletions/commission/secys/2001/secy2001-0190/2001-0190scy.html)

Blubaugh insists Powertech will not contaminate - I wonder if he made that statement when he was with Atlas. By the way, who do you think is picking up the multi-million dollar tab for the Atlas remediation? Correct, taxpayers!

Powertech will explain that the in-situ mining process is safe because of the lack of tailings (material that is left over with open-pit mines). A very important fact to remember is that there is a large and complicated network of underground water systems called aquifers. These aquifers provide water for drinking and irrigation. Once contaminated, there is no reasonable way to return the aquifer system to its pre-contaminated state. This is the main reason the Larimer County Medical Society is in opposition to both the in-situ and open-pit uranium mining processes near population centers. The Medical Society will not stand by and allow our valuable resources, resources that are critical to health and life, be damaged.

Cory D. Carroll, M.D., is president of the Larimer County Medical Society.




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