Residents split on radiation storage

Christina M. Currie

It may be months before Moffat County’s Land Use Board has the opportunity to make a recommendation on radioactive storage, but some residents aren’t putting their protest off to the last minute.

Terrie Barrie, a spokeswoman for Northwest Colorado Cares, attended Monday’s meeting to get a jump-start on educating potential decision makers on the hazards of radiation.

“There is no level that’s safe,” she said.

Northwest Colorado Cares is a group of residents that formed after they heard that a Northwest Colorado landowner, Jim Ross, had plans to use the pits left by uranium mining on his property in the 1950s as a dump site for low-level radioactive waste. Ross has said he’d like to fill the pits primarily with spoil piles — the overburden of dirt that was removed while uranium was being mined.

Barrie’s husband, George, who’s health is that of “an old man’s” because of the work he did with nuclear weapons at Rocky Flats, said that could just be the beginning.

“It’s going to snowball on us,” he said. “They’ll try to make us the dump, and we don’t want to be the dump out here.

“We’re really concerned about Moffat County,” he said. “This is really a very, very serious thing for all of us. I don’t want to see our kids have these things happen to them.”

Ross said it could be three years before he gets the research in order and makes it through the permitting process. At this point he’s only processed historical documents that deal with the time when the area was an open uranium mine. He’s not applied for any of the permits that would be needed to open the site.

Members of Northwest Colo–rado Cares have tried to get Ross to share the details of his plan with them, but he’s said he isn’t ready.

“One thing that concerns me about Jim Ross’ plan is the lack of details he’s made public,” Barrie said. “Trust me, there’s a lot to be concerned about.”

The county needs only to approve a request to rezone the area. Barrie said she thinks the county may have to issue a certificate of designation, but there’s a chance that the only say county officials will have on the plan is regarding zoning.

Barrie also told the land use board that her group opposes any uranium mining in Moffat County. Standard Uranium, a Canadian business, has bought the mining claims to 10,000 acres near Maybell and has the opportunity to lease an additional 2,400.

Land use board member Robert Grubb asked Barrie to provide additional information on health and safety issues specific to the uranium pits in Maybell. Other board members asked for current radiation levels compared to those of the past.

Other than those few questions, there were no comments from land use board members, who think it will be at least eight months before the issue officially comes before them.

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