By Jordan SteffenWeld County residents opposed to the proposed uranium mine near Nunn are still not convinced their groundwater will be protected from contamination.
Two weeks ago, Gov. Ritter signed legislation to protect groundwater from contamination as a result of leach uranium mining. House Bill 1161 requires that companies using leach uranium mines restore all affected groundwater to the condition it was in before mining.
A new study, however, shows that these types of regulations may not prevent all groundwater contamination. Weld residents now are using this information as their primary argument against the uranium mine.
Powertech Uranium Corp., a Canadian firm, is continuing to collect samples and apply for permits. President and CEO Richard Clement said all the work applications should be completed by mid-summer. The applications take about a year and a half to process.
The mine should stay on schedule, Clement said. He said the mine will provide a long-term economic opportunity through providing clean energy. There is very little environmental concern, Clements said.
Bruce Darling, president of Southwest Groundwater Consulting of Austin, Texas, compiled a study of uranium mines in Texas. The study examined the condition of the groundwater once the mining was complete.
Darling, who holds a Ph.D in geology (hydrology), said the types of regulations found in HB 1161 are not always set in stone and often become relaxed.
Many Texas mines receive relaxed groundwater restoration standards, allowing the firms to leave the groundwater in a worse condition than originally required.
In Darling’s study, he argues that he has found no evidence to support the idea that mining firms are able to meet many standards of restoring groundwater.
“None of it paints a rosy picture,” Darling said.
Howard Williams, a landowner near Wellington, said this report is what residents need to make a point about their concerns.
“We are turning handsprings out here about the report,” Williams said.
Once you begin to tamper with the chemical composition of the groundwater, the changes are nearly impossible to reverse, Williams said.
“Unless you they have some sort of ‘beam me up Scotty’ transporter, it is not going to work,” Williams said.
Jay Davis, a landowner near Fort Collins, said he does not think Darling’s report will persuade the state to prevent the mine. Instead, he said, it will help ensure that the maximum safety measures are taken.
Davis said many states that may face the same situation are waiting to see Colorado’s reaction.
Until a decision is made, Davis plans to continue to bring awareness to the issue, he said. Through town information meetings or promoting a petition that has about 11,500 signatures, keeping people informed is the best approach to the matter, Davis said.
Even more concerning is the number of people who are not aware there is an issue at all, he said.