By Andrew Villegas
February 13, 2008
A proposed uranium mine near Nunn poses no threat to Greeley's drinking water, but city officials say water from the mine could eventually find its way into Greeley's No. 3 Ditch if the mining isn't done correctly.
And that water, depending on whom you ask, could be subject to potential contamination if the proposed mine is approved.
The ditch water -- which is undrinkable anyway -- is used to water city parks and also provides water for agriculture on farms near Greeley.
Greeley owns about 40 percent of the water in the ditch along with local farmers.
Powertech Uranium Corp. officials have previously said that they will be able to contain water at the mine site, preventing contamination, and that they will be able clean the groundwater after the uranium mining is completed.
But, Monson said, if Powertech -- the Canadian company that wants to open the mine -- mines it correctly, there's no danger to the ditch water either.
"If they do it right, they will keep (the mine water) onsite," Monson said. "And it's in their best interest to get all the uranium."
Wells around Greeley are typically dug to less than 100 feet, Monson said, and the uranium will be mined from deposits 120 to 620 feet below ground.
Greeley bought farms south of the proposed mine site near Pierce and Ault to augment water rights for the city, so Monson said declining property values will be a concern for the city -- as it is for nearby residents -- if the mine goes in.
Monson said for people to be satisfied that the mine will be safe, Powertech should be required to have bonds assuring cleanup at the site, a fact Powertech already has conceded.
Meanwhile, councilmembers Tuesday night split on whether to entertain a resolution against the mine. Fort Collins City Council has already passed a resolution against the proposed mine.
"If we show our concerns now, it may prevent them from even applying," Councilman Carrol Martin said. "It scares me to death to put a uranium mine in our aquifer."
As part of the permitting process, Powertech would have to convince the EPA that the water it will mine in will never be used for drinking water.
Councilman Ed Phillipsen said that no one can make that assurance.
"Let them do it in Canada," Phillipsen said. "What happens if down the line we do need to drink groundwater?"
A POSSIBLE STAND AGAINST MINE?
Three councilmembers -- Carrol Martin, Ed Phillipsen and Chuck Archibeque -- asked for a resolution against the mine while three councilmembers -- Mayor Ed Clark, Maria Secrest and Don Feldhaus -- are at least for now against any such resolution. The split effectively killed any resolution against the proposed mine for the time being. Pam Shaddock was absent Tuesday night. Jon Monson, Greeley's director of water and sewer, told the Greeley City Council at a work session Tuesday night that Greeley's drinking water supply originates upstream from the mine, is piped to the city and is in no danger of contamination.