Group opposes uranium dump near Maybell

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It will take at least three years to get a pit outside of Maybell licensed to collect uranium tailings, but at least 12 people think it's never too soon to get educated and mount a protest.

Craig resident Jim Ross is processing thousands of pages of documents -- the first of many steps need to turn a former uranium mine into a collection point and his status report to the Craig/Economic Development Partnership has launched a grass-roots effort to stop him before he starts.

"If you oppose something early enough, people realize they're just spinning their wheels and let it drop. Once they invest a lot of money, it may be too late," said Roger Simmons. Roger and his wife own property adjacent to the pit Ross wants to fill.

The group was assembled by Terrie Barrie, who has waged a battle trying to get Congress to live up to benefits that were promised to nuclear workers. Her husband, George Barrie, got sick after being exposed to radiation while making weapons during the Cold War.

"I know some people might think this is a waste of time right now, but I don't think it is," she said. "This needs to be an open discussion. People need to be aware of this."

Barrie's personal stake in the issue is high.

"It's horrible what radiation can do to a person," she said. She's seen the effects firsthand. George Barrie suffers from 30 illnesses, including pre-cancerous conditions and bone diseases.

The group met Friday at the Golden Cavvy to plot a course.

"The focus of this meeting is to get organized and see where you folks want to go and see how we approach opposing this," Barrie said. "If we can get the facts of what this entails, we can be prepared when (Ross) files for the permit. We can spread the word and educate the public."

It's an issue longtime Craig resident Peggy Gonzalez has been coping with for more than 10 years. Her son swam in a pond outside the original uranium mine pits and later worked at the Rocky Flats nuclear facility near Denver. The combination, Gonzalez thinks, has left him in poor health. He has had his hips and both knees replaced and suffers from Crohn's disease.

"We were unaware 50 years ago of what was going to happen; let's not be unaware about what will happen in 50 years," she said.

The group's biggest challenge is educating itself. Members aren't sure what Ross' plans are, so combating them at this stage is difficult.

"We need to see his business plan," Barrie said. "Where are the tailings coming from? Is it coming over the passes ? Because that's dangerous. I know we need to do something with the waste that's floating across the United States, but to bring it to Moffat County is not a good idea."

Group members agreed to meet monthly to discuss strategy and their research findings.

They plan to be able to take them to the Moffat County commissioner's if Ross seeks a permit for his project.

Their next meeting will is at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 18 at the Golden Cavvy.

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