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Markey, Bennet urge EPA to hear residents' mine 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 1, 2009

Rep. Betsy Markey and Sen. Michael Bennet, both Democrats, are urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to hear Northern Colorado residents' concerns about water pollution before the agency acts on Powertech's proposed Centennial Project uranium mine.

The mine is planned for a site in Weld County about 15 miles northeast of Fort Collins where uranium would be extracted using a process called in situ leaching. The town and city councils of Fort Collins, Greeley, Ault, Timnath, Nunn and Wellington have passed resolutions opposing the mine because they fear it will contaminate ground water.

"There is fear that this process can jeopardize water quality and may well be inappropriate for use in an area so close to a population center of 300,000,” Markey and Bennet wrote Monday in a letter to EPA regional administrator Carol Rushin.

Bennet and Markey asked the agency to involve concerned Northern Coloradans in a possible rulemaking process that might give the EPA internal guidance on how to regulate the Centennial Project under the Safe Drinking Water Act’s Underground Injection Control Program.

But the EPA couldn’t say if such a rulemaking process exists.

“If there is an effort afoot for internal guidance, I cannot confirm that,” EPA spokesman Richard Mylott said Monday. “We’re still deciphering what this letter may be alluding to when it talks about formulating internal guidance.”

Powertech has applied to the EPA for at least one permit under the Underground Injection Control Program.

The company applied for a permit to drill an aquifer recharge injection well — a “Class V” well — at the Centennial Project site. The agency is holding a public meeting on the permit at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Nunn Community Center in Nunn and will allow the public to comment on a draft permit for the well through Dec. 24.

Meanwhile, the proposed mine’s potential impact on water quality in the region will be discussed at a hearing Thursday at the Colorado Department of Natural Resources headquarters in Denver.

The Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety is writing rules governing in situ leach mining under a law passed in 2008 requiring companies operating such mines to minimize their impact on water quality.

Powertech responded to a new draft of the rules issued in October saying the state is giving the public too many opportunities to comment. The company called both the proposed rules and potential public comment “illegal.”

Company representatives may discuss the matter Thursday.

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