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Residents Voice Uranium Project Concerns Print

BY BOBBY MAGILL This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Fort Collins Coloradoan
DECEMBER 22, 2009

Speakers at Nunn meeting share opinions about proposed uranium mine and pump test

NUNN - Standing before a crowd of more than 100 people Monday night, Fort Collins resident Diane Marschke said she doesn't think it matters if Powertech USA's proposed Centennial Project uranium mine pollutes the water.

"When people hear there's a uranium mine 10 miles away, they aren't going to come here," she said.

Marschke and about 15 others confronted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials at the Nunn Community Center with their opinions about a proposed water pump test that will tell Powertech if its in situ leaching method of uranium mining is viable in the area.

To conduct the test, the company needs a "Class V" permit from the EPA, which will allow Powertech to pump water out of the uranium-containing Fox Hills aquifer, store it, then reinject the water back into the aquifer. The permit will not allow the company to mine for uranium.

Powertech will be responsible for doing its own tests on the integrity of the well hole and casing, which are meant to ensure the water will not contaminate aquifers above the area where the water is being reinjected, said Valois Shea of the EPA Underground Injection Control Program.

The company is required to report its findings to the EPA.

The pump test permitting process has been going on for nearly a year, and a public comment period ends Thursday. The EPA's final decision on the permit is expected sometime in early 2010.

Most who spoke Monday night spoke passionately against the pump test and proposed mine, most of them fearing the pump test will stir up contaminants and harm drinking water quality.

"Powertech is testing their own wells," Fort Collins resident Scott Horak said. "They're monitoring their own situation. It's like the fox guarding the hen house. It isn't gonna work."

Robin Davis, who lives adjacent to Powertech's property, gave an emotional speech, saying she lives in a constant state of fear that every drilling rig that drives past her place could drill a hole leading to the contamination of her well water.

Randy King, a former miner at the Climax molybdenum mine near Leadville who said he is now a water quality professional for a local utility, said he fears toxic waste as bad as that left behind at the Climax mine could end up in Fort Collins' backyard.

"If Powertech happens, I'll be one of many people who will up and go," he said, imploring the EPA to "save my beautiful Colorado."

One of the few who spoke in favor of the pump test was Erik Nelson, a mining engineer who lives near the Powertech site.

He said any contaminants from the test won't go farther than the well head, and neither the test nor the mine pose any hazard to the groundwater.

"I have no concern at all with either the pump test or the mine itself," he said.

Area resident Lloyd Drust responded: "I'm really glad you're not concerned. There are plenty of people that are and should be."




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