December 08, 2011

Cotter Mill: A Superfund Site that Wants to Stay in Business

Thirty years after it was named a Superfund clean-up site, the owners of the Cotter uranium mill in Cañon City are keeping it legally alive — just in case.

Barry Noreen at the Gazette recaps the saga.
Still, Cotter’s announcement that it is seeking a five-year extension was a disappointment to Sharyn Cunningham, co-founder of [Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste].

“Right now they’re cleaning up,” Cunningham said, “but they’re not deciding that they’re closing. It does leave us in limbo because you don’t know what they’re going to do.”

Cotter’s property was declared a Superfund site long ago, and announcing a formal intention to close would trigger state and federal cleanup requirements beyond what the company is already doing. Cotter officials have been tight-lipped about their intentions, which is unsettling to Cunningham and many others in Cañon City.
Cotter's presence was a concern when I accepted a job in Cañon City in 1986. We chose a house that upwind with irrigation water unaffected — we hoped — by the radioactive leakage from Cotter's settling ponds that affected much of the south side of town.

Later, we joined in a lawsuit (one of several) over the Superfund site's effect on property values, and I always counted the settlement received as compensation for the fact that we made nothing on our house when we sold it six years later during a time of slowly rising prices. (This after doing significant remodeling!)

People talk about storing radioactive waste, but the problems start at the other end of the nuclear-power process. It looks so clean—when it works—until you check out all the steps.

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