Monday, December 9, 2013

Ruptured pipeline leaks radioactive water from old uranium mill


Pipeline blamed for spill at former uranium plant in Colorado   

By the Associated Press, 25 Nov 13,  CANON CITY, Colo.  —

A pipeline rupture led to a spill of an estimated 4,000 to 9,000 gallons of contaminated water spilled at a former uranium mill near Canon City, but an on-site collection system contained the spill, officials told residents.

A joint on the underground pipeline broke Nov. 5, unleashing the spill at the defunct Cotter Corp. mill, Jennifer Opila, a radioactive materials monitor for the state health department, told the Thursday meeting. The pipe was repaired and operable by Nov. 6, Opila said.

Cotter safety officer Jim Cain said between 4,000 and 9,000 gallons of water spilled. A sample showed traces of uranium and molybdenum were found, Cain said.

John Hamrick, vice president of Cotter Mill operations, said there have been three leaks “in three different years, all for different reasons.”

Cotter once processed uranium for weapons and fuel at the mill. Federal authorities placed the mill on a national list for Superfund cleanups in the 1980s after radioactive materials traced to the mill were found to have contaminated the soil and groundwater. Part of the neighboring Lincoln Park community also is a Superfund site.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eventually turned oversight of cleanup work to state officials.

Uranium hasn’t been processed at the mill since 2006. The state requires mill sites that are being decommissioned to be thoroughly cleaned up and restored at the operator’s expense. It’s expected to be a multimillion-dollar effort.