The Home Front: As Colorado landfills illegally bury radioactive waste, the EPA paves a road with ‘potentially toxic’ mine waste

Your morning roundup of stories from the front pages of newspapers across Colorado

The Home Front: As Colorado landfills illegally bury radioactive waste, the EPA paves a road with ‘potentially toxic’ mine waste

“Colorado landfills have been illegally burying low-level radioactive waste from the oil and gas industry that they are not approved to handle, state health officials revealed this week,” reports The Denver Post. “State health regulators, confirming at a meeting with local governments the disposal of unknown amounts at ordinary landfills, are trying to prohibit the practice and buttress their oversight. Colorado’s booming oil and gas industry produces millions of tons of waste, some of it radioactive, and both waste producers and landfill operators are obligated to handle it properly.”

Meanwhile, “The same Environmental Protection Agency crew that caused the Gold King Mine spill is again catching flak for using potentially toxic material from a mine waste pile to improve a road north of Silverton,” reports The Durango Herald. “About two weeks ago, local residents started to notice that a portion of County Road 53, a remote dirt road that travels through the San Juan Mountains, was resurfaced and widened with a white-yellowish material.”

“Darrell and Ronde Settle stood Tuesday at the top of a hillside across the street from their mobile home and peered over the edge,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “What a trip,” Darrell Settle said. “Wow,” added Ronde, as the two contemplated the idea that Ursa Resources is proposing drilling 24 natural gas wells and also operating a wastewater injection well at the bottom of the hill. The proposed pad is within 500 feet of some mobile homes along the hilltop, while some 50, including the Settles’ home, lie within 1,000 feet of the site. “That’s going to get real noisy if it’s right here. It seems like sound comes up the hill real good,” said Darrell Settle, who hadn’t previously been aware of the proposed location.”

“The 37th annual Breckenridge Film Festival is returning this weekend to the arts district campus and showcasing more than 70 films,” reports The Summit Daily News. “The lineup, stretching over four days from Sept. 21-24, features 34 Colorado premieres, 11 international premieres and 12 U.S. premieres. But, the event isn’t just watching movies all weekend.”

“Hospitals across the state are still owed millions of dollars more than six months after Colorado launched a new system to handle reimbursements for Medicaid claims,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “The Colorado Hospital Association released data this week indicating five individual hospitals and five hospital systems were owed nearly $211 million in claims, The Denver Post reported. North Colorado Medical Center, 1801 16th St., Greeley is one of those hospitals and feels the strain. “The state’s change to the new computer system and delayed payments for Medicaid has had a significant impact to our Banner Health operations in Colorado,” wrote Sara Quale, NCMC’s public relations director, in an email. “While it has not changed our commitment to quality patient care, it is greatly affecting our ability to be reimbursed in a timely manner for the care we have provided.”

“Loveland police on Wednesday arrested a 27-year-old transient man on a felony negligent homicide allegation in connection with the October 2016 overdose death of 60-year-old Ruthann Estrada, better known as ‘Mama Ray,'” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Shane Bueno, a Loveland resident, is currently being held in the Larimer County Jail on suspicion of the homicide charge, which is a Class 5 felony, a press release from Loveland Police Department said. Bueno was advised of the charge in a court hearing Wednesday afternoon at the Larimer County Justice Center, and a $7,500 bail bond was set.”

“It’s hard to describe an elk’s bugle, that strange sound that draws crowds of onlookers to Rocky Mountain National Park each fall,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “Angry spaceship? Moo meets microphone feedback? The shriek of the wild? Whatever you want to call it, the bugle must be heard to be understood — and now’s the best time to hear it, as 200 to 600 elk wander down from the park’s higher elevations just in time for mating season.”

“As of 6:20 p.m. Thursday, a wildfire that was first reported around noon south of Elk Springs in western Moffat County had ripped through more 3,500 acres of grass and sagebrush, threatening residences in Deerlodge Park and surrounding areas,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “U.S. Highway 40 remained closed Thursday evening as the blaze, dubbed the Winter Valley Fire, blew across the highway toward the northeast, threatening to reach Colorado Highway 318.”

“A company’s plans to drill within Lafayette’s borders has invoked a renewed sense of urgency in the city,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “The city will send an ordinance requiring oil and gas operators to map their pipelines to its Planning Commission next week — a landmark measure similar to what Erie officials sanctioned amid industry resistance earlier this month. Lafayette has included a provision that would increase setback limits to 750 feet — up from 350. It would include subsurface facilities such as flow lines and gathering lines in its language.”

“Colorado is planning to invest millions of dollars into its electric vehicle infrastructure as early as 2018, and the benefits could immediately be felt across the entire Western Slope,” reports Vail Daily. “As part of the pending multibillion-dollar Volkswagen settlement with the U.S. government stemming from diesel engines designed to offer fraudulent emissions results, $68 million is the state’s piece of the pie. A Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment draft plan envisions $10 million of the windfall going toward at least 60 new electric fast-charging stations along Colorado’s major arteries, including Interstate 70.”

“Three times a week, old-school R&B in the air, Marc Sotkin sits, pumping his legs like a madman,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “‘Like many superheroes, I have a secret identity,’ Sotkin said, over coffee on Monday at Vic’s in Boulder. He’s Gagman. (Not a madman.) And like Batman, his voice inflection screams superhero. (“I’m Gagman.”) Both of Sotkin’s identities have extraordinary abilities. By dawn, he leads a spin class at Colorado Athletic Club Flatirons, and by dusk (or really everywhere in between) he enlists the power of his pen to make people laugh. The Boulder resident, a former writer and producer for hit TV shows “The Golden Girls” and “Laverne & Shirley,” launched a multimedia e-book two weeks ago that tells the tale of aging superheroes. With punches of snark, witty banter and dirty slapstick humor, Sotkin has high hopes of it hitting TV screens.”

“Discord and disorder erupted Wednesday night at a local board meeting as a dispute between citizens, board members and fire district officers from the Deer Mountain Fire Protection District community came to a head,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “In the small community center, dozens of people gathered for the Deer Mountain Fire District’s board meeting with the hopes of getting answers from the board’s leaders and for the chance of voicing their opinions and concerns.”

“Amid the fires, floods and hurricanes, U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs was asked to deal with an earthquake this week,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “In the busiest summer the command has ever seen in dealing with disaster, one more wasn’t a problem. An Air Force C-17 picked up 60 search and rescue experts and their dogs and flew them to Mexico City by Thursday morning. Relief supplies should follow aboard other Air Force planes.”

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About the Author

Corey Hutchins

is a journalist in Colorado, and Columbia Journalism Review's Rocky Mountain correspondent for the United States Project. Follow him on Twitter @CoreyHutchins and email him at CoreyHutchins [at] gmail [dot] com.

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