State orders Cotter to clean up uranium mine fouling JeffCo drinking water

Environmentalists and local politicians Friday cheered a Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety order late Thursday directing Denver-based Cotter Corp. to begin curtailing drinking water contamination from an inactive Jefferson County uranium mine this summer.

Uranium pollution revealed to be more than 13 times state standards was contaminating Ralston Creek, and the state rejected a cleanup plan proposed by Cotter, which owns the Cotter Mill uranium processing facility near Canon City and several uranium mines around the state.

The mining division required Cotter to begin water treatment at its Schwartzwalder uranium mine west of Arvada by July 31.

“The mining division took bold and decisive action to protect our drinking water,” Jefferson County Commissioner Kathy Hartman said in a release. “I am pleased to see immediate action to protect Ralston Reservoir.”

Uranium levels at the mine itself exceeded 1,400 times Colorado water quality standards.

“Thousands of people depend on clean water from Ralston Reservoir, and we can’t afford for Cotter to drag its feet cleaning up their mess,” said Matt Garrington, program advocate with Environment Colorado and a Jefferson County resident. “The mining division deserves praise for taking strong action.”

Cotter was the focus of a tough new uranium mill processing bill this legislative session, requiring cleanup of mills before expansion is allowed.

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