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Issues at Cañon City uranium mill (Colorado)

(last updated 7 Mar 2014)

NRC Docket No.

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Cotter Corp. plans to seek license termination for Cañon City uranium mill, rather than to rebuild it

Cotter Corp. has decided it is "no longer economic" to process uranium at its contaminated Colorado uranium mill and will move toward clean-up of the site next to Cañon City along the Arkansas River. A letter from Cotter president Amory Quinn says Cotter "will not seek to renew" the radioactive materials license Cotter has from the state health department. Cotter plans to decommission and decontaminate the mill site and to request license termination, Quinn said in the Dec. 12 letter. (Denver Post Dec. 16, 2011)
> Download Cotter letter Dec. 12, 2011 (569k PDF - CDPHE)

Cañon City mill cited for spill of uranium-contaminated solution

Colorado health officials cited a uranium mill in Fremont County for accidentally releasing more than 500 gallons of uranium-contaminated water into the environment. The state Health Department of Public Health and Environment says none of the contaminated water left the restricted property of Cotter Corp., south of Canon City. There was no harm to the public or the environment. State health officials announced the notice of violation Thursday (Aug. 18) for the incident, which happened in November of last year. Officials say Cotter has addressed the problem and provided documentation and not further enforcement actions are expected. (Times Union Aug. 19, 2011)
The spill occurred on Nov. 28, 2010, and was caused by not properly closing the vault for the pumpback system resulting in a frozen flange. The uranium concentration in the spilled solution was determined at approx. 1.8 milligrams per litre, while the maximum concentration limit is 0.03 milligrams per litre.
> Download CDPHE letter to Cotter: Annual Inspection Report and Notice of Violation, Aug. 11, 2011 (1.07MB PDF)
> Download CDPHE June 15, 2011 Inspection Report (6.65MB PDF)
> Download CDPHE November 28, 2010 Spill Report (4.87MB PDF)

Cotter considers in situ leach mining technique to remove uranium and molybdenum from contaminated soils at Cañon City uranium mill site

The mill has not processed yellowcake since 2005. Workers are currently demolishing old mill buildings and gauging the financial feasibility of building a new mill at the site. A top priority, according to Mill Manager John Hamrick, is to move away from having to pump contaminated groundwater that slips past a failed treatment wall and is then moved back onto the mill property. The site is called the dam-to-ditch area which is located between an earthen dam and an irrigation ditch which divides the mill property from the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
"We're investigating the best way to clean it up so the goal will be to eventually quit pumping. It is a small area and the plume is small there but the concentrations (of uranium and molybdenum) have remained the same - they are just sitting there," Hamrick said. On Monday (Aug. 1), Cotter officials notified the state public health department that they have a plan to clean up the dam-to-ditch site.
"The whole scenario is to figure out how to extract most of the uranium and molybdenum from the soils. They (Cotter) are basically proposing to inject liquids that will cause uranium and molybdenum to leach out," said Sharyn Cunningham of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, an environmental watchdog group. Proposals for the state's consideration are the use of carbonate or citric acid to convert the uranium into a water soluble form, which is then extracted from the soil, according to the Cotter officials' letter. "The assumption is that cleaning these soils will stop the contaminates from flowing under Lincoln Park which might work, if no further contamination is flowing under the dam," Cunningham said. (The Pueblo Chieftain Aug. 5, 2011)
> Download: Scope of Work to Optimize Uranium and Molybdenum Extraction from Soils: Dam to Ditch Area, Cotter Uranium Mill, Cañon City, CO , Aug. 1, 2011 (80k PDF - CDPHE)

Subsidiary of high-tech company General Atomics proves to be incapable of providing safe access to monitoring locations on tailings impoundment

Cotter Corp. managers of a uranium mill have asked state regulators to let them stop testing the acidity of a leaking toxic- and radioactive- waste impoundment pond - saying conditions have become too dangerous for workers. A makeshift row of wooden pallets leading into the viscous impoundment has sunk into muck, and "it is now unsafe to measure the pH of the pool," Cotter's environment coordinator, Jim Cain, said in a July 25 letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. (Denver Post Aug. 4, 2011)
(Cotter Corp. is a subsidiary of San Diego-based defense contractor General Atomics)
> Download Cotter letter, July 25, 2011 (291k PDF - CDPHE)
> Download Primary Impoundment Access Points for pH measurements, July 21, 2011 (243k PDF - CDPHE, with photos of sunken row of pallets!)

Trichloroethylene found in wells near Cotter's Cañon City uranium mill

Members of the Cotter/Lincoln Park Superfund Community Advisory Group heard Thursday (Mar. 31) that the chemical trichloroethylene has been found in four wells near the site.
Steve Tarlton, radiation control project manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said the chemical was discovered while Cotter was doing work to further characterize the contamination plume in the groundwater under the Shadow Hills Golf Course. The laboratory that was analyzing the groundwater indicated interference in the analysis, which lead to the discovery of the TCE.
"If there was drinking water it would be well over standards," Tarlton said. The TCE was discovered at between 386 parts-per-billion and 1,800 ppb in the four wells. TCE is a solvent that has only been used at one time on the Cotter site in the 1980s, Tarlton said. He added that the chemical usually degrades relatively quickly in the environment. (Cañon City Daily Record Apr. 2, 2011)

Cotter Corp. disputes cleanup bond for groundwater monitoring at Cañon City uranium mill site

After three months of informal negotiations on how to monitor contaminated groundwater in Lincoln Park, the state and Cotter Corp. are unable to agree on what that task would cost.   The Colorado Department of Public Health on Oct. 26 issued an order requiring Cotter Corp. to adjust its $2.6 million surety to $9.9 million to cover estimated costs to install and monitor groundwater wells and prevent groundwater from seeping off site at the currently idle uranium mill just south of Canon City.
  On Nov. 5, Cotter attorney Mark Mathews notified the state that Cotter disputes the state's estimate of $9.9 million and requested an informal mediation.
  "We predicted Cotter would obstruct, delay and oppose," the amount of their cleanup bond, said Sharyn Cunningham, co-chairwoman for Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste. "They proved us right." (Pueblo Chieftain Nov. 13, 2010)

CDPHE invites comment on Decommissioning Funding Plan for Cotter's Cañon City uranium mill

Cotter Corp. and the state health department are nearly $20 million apart in agreeing on the amount of a financial assurance warranty to cover eventual closure of the uranium mill site just south of Canon City. The uranium mill processed ''yellowcake'' uranium from 1958 to 1987. In 1988, the mill was identified by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund cleanup site. State regulations require a decommissioning plan that gives a cost estimate for closing the mill. Cotter and state officials have been working since 2009 to try to pin down an updated cost estimate.
Following review of the state's estimate, Cotter officials agreed to increase the current surety from $14.7 million to $20.8 million by July 2011. The $6 million increase will go toward covering increased costs relating to Cotter's work to demolish parts of the old mill that Cotter no longer plans to use.
The state and Cotter have further delved into trying to estimate total cost of demolition, excavation of soils, groundwater remediation and reclamation of the entire mill site at some point in the future under requirements of both the mill's license and the Remedial Action Plan that is part of the Superfund cleanup process. Cotter has estimated the total cost to be $23.2 million and the state estimates the cost to be $42.8 million, a difference of about $19.6 million. (The Pueblo Chieftain Oct. 28, 2010)

The Decommissioning Funding Plan is available for public review and comment through November 24, 2010.
> Download Decommissioning Funding Plan - Cotter Cañon City mill, Oct. 26, 2010 (2.7M PDF - CDPHE)
> See also CDPHE news

Cotter Corp. received nearly US$ 3 million of federal reimbursements for cleanup of Cañon City uranium mill, might get another US$ 3.3 million

The federal government reimbursed Cotter Corp. nearly $3 million for cleanup of its toxic uranium mill near Cañon City - and could pay $3.3 million more for work in the future. But the work mopping up tailings and contaminated groundwater that began in 1984 is not scheduled to be complete until 2027. The mill would be one of the last to be cleaned among 14 sites nationwide where the federal government had a hand in Cold War uranium processing.
The total cost of cleanup is estimated at $43 million. The federal reimbursement program pays a share of cleanup costs based on the extent to which early work was done for the government. A subsidiary of San Diego-based General Atomics, Cotter began processing uranium at the mill in 1958. Cotter vice president John Hamrick said less than 20 percent of waste tailings were tied to federal projects. Since 1994, Cotter has submitted invoices and received $2,987,244, including $140,110 last year, federal officials said. (Denver Post Sep. 30, 2010)


CCAT lawsuit against State regulator over insufficient financial surety for Cotter's Cañon City mill cleanup

Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against State regulator over insufficient financial surety for Cotter's Cañon City mill cleanup

Despite attorneys for both the state health department and Cotter Corporation pushing for dismissal of a lawsuit filed in Denver District Court on behalf of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, a judge is allowing it to proceed. Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, a grass-roots group in Cañon City, filed the legal challenge against the state in September 2010. The group sought to force regulators to require the Cotter Corporation to establish a proper cleanup plan for the contaminated mill and to provide funds sufficient to carry it out, as mandated by state law.
Both the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment radiation regulators and Cotter Corp. immediately asked the court to dismiss the group's legal challenge. They argued that local residents had no right to challenge the state's oversight of the site, which has been ongoing since a 1988 Superfund designation by the Environmental Protection Agency.
However, in a ruling Friday (June 3), Denver District Judge Robert S. Hyatt rejected the state and Cotter's assertions, affirming the public's and the court's role in ensuring timely closure and cleanup of pollution at the Cotter mill and radioactive waste facility. (The Pueblo Chieftain Jun. 6, 2011)

Group extends legal case against State regulator over deficiencies with Cotter's Cañon City mill cleanup

Colorado residents of an area where a Cold War-era uranium mill contaminated soil and groundwater are expanding their legal case against state regulators, accusing them of failing to hold Cotter Corp. accountable. The lawsuit filed in Denver District Court alleges that recent dismantling activity at Cotter's Cañon City mill is being done without a required plan, presenting a public-health risk as toxic and radioactive waste is dumped into a waste-storage pond.
"We have frequent high winds here. I always worry," said Cañon City resident Sharyn Cunningham, leader of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste (CCAT). "We'd like an opportunity to weigh in." The 34-page complaint filed Friday (Jan. 14) expands a previous lawsuit accusing Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) regulators of failing to require sufficient bond money to protect taxpayers - in case Cotter walks away from the cleanup. It claims that state officials calculated $43 million is necessary to complete the work but required Cotter to provide only $20 million.
The lawsuit also contends a plume of toxic groundwater contamination from the mill property - identified in 2008 - is flowing unchecked toward the heart of Cañon City and the Arkansas River. (Denver Post Jan. 19, 2011)

Group sues State regulator over insufficient financial surety for Cotter's Cañon City mill cleanup

A citizens group has filed a lawsuit accusing Colorado regulators of failing to require Cotter Corp. to set aside enough money to clean up its uranium mill in Cañon City. Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste (CCAT) filed the lawsuit in Denver District Court against the state health department and others. It says the department has estimated it will cost at least $43 million to decommission and decontaminate Cotter's mill, which is a Superfund site, but the state let Cotter set its financial surety at just $20.2 million. (Denver Post Sep. 22, 2010)
> Download CCAT complaint Sep. 19, 2010 (PDF)
Court rules that department followed proper procedure to set surety amount for Cañon City uranium mill cleanup: A Denver District Court judge has issued a decision Tuesday (March 13, 2013) in a lawsuit filed by the Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment over the amount of the surety of the Cotter Uranium Mill. (Cañon City Daily Record March 13, 2013)


Cotter Corp announces willful neglect of EPA requirement to conduct radon measurements at Cañon City tailings impoundment

By letter dated July 23, 2010, Cotter Corp announced to EPA that it no longer intends to perform the radon flux measurements at its primary impoundment, as required by U.S. EPA regulations 40 CFR Part 61 Subpart W. Although reminded by EPA on Aug. 25, 2010, to meet its obligations, the company on Sep. 10, 2010, reiterated its stance.

ATSDR releases report on Lincoln Park Cotter Mill Uranium Site for public comment, advises residents against consuming private well water

ATSDR has released a public comment version of its report on the Cotter Mill site.
Drinking contaminated private well water over many years may have put some Lincoln Park people at risk for health effects, said the report of a federal public health agency that looked at health concerns near the Lincoln Park Cotter Uranium Mill Superfund site. Breathing air around the site was not found to be a health hazard.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) found that drinking water contaminated by molybdenum over many years could put people at increased risk for certain health effects including gout or other joint problems. Most people in Lincoln Park are now on the public water supply and are not exposed to this contaminant. ATSDR recommends that people still using private well water in Lincoln Park stop using it for household purposes.
ATSDR is accepting public comments on the report until December 9, 2010 (comment period extended).

> View ATSDR release Sep. 9, 2010
> Download Public Health Assessment, Lincoln Park/Cotter Uranium Mill, Cañon City, Fremont County, Colorado , Sep. 9, 2010

Cotter plans to close tailings impoundments at Cañon City uranium mill

The operator of a uranium mill that contaminated groundwater and soil at Cañon City has indicated that it will be shut down rather than refurbished. Cotter Corp. has informed regulators it will close two toxic-waste impoundment ponds at the mill "as soon as reasonably achievable," according to a letter Cotter sent to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Cotter, which had previously said the mill would be reopened, now has told state regulators it will stop testing for radon emissions at the site because it is "no longer an active facility" subject to regulation. The apparent reversal, and Cotter's decision to stop testing for radon emissions, caught local leaders by surprise. The site has been designated a polluted Superfund site and Cotter has been responsible for monitoring to make sure cancer-causing radon was not escaping the facility. (Denver Post Aug. 18, 2010)

Although the idle Cotter Uranium Mill is moving toward closing waste impoundments, the action does not mean the mill will never reopen, a state official said. "They are working toward closing the impoundments and have been dewatering (drying out) the impoundments for years," said Jeannine Natterman, public information officer for the Colorado Department of Health. "They have not officially notified us they are closing the (entire) facility." (Pueblo Chieftain Aug. 19, 2010)

Cotter intends to keep uranium-mill license, may reopen site, says VP: Cotter Corp. will dismantle its toxic-waste ponds and buildings at a uranium mill south of Cañon City, but it intends to keep its license from state regulators to operate at the site and may reopen, the company's vice president for operations said Thursday (Aug. 19).
Accelerated efforts to close down contaminated facilities at the Superfund cleanup site are aimed at clearing a path for possible uranium processing in the future and do not indicate Cotter plans to leave the 2,600-acre site, vice president John Hamrick said. "We can decommission parts of the facility without moving towards license termination," Hamrick said. "Our intention is to clear the path for new construction in the future." No date has been set or plans submitted for that construction.
A new state law requires uranium-mill operators to clean up existing messes before launching new projects. Cotter opposed that law and, before it was passed, warned it could kill a proposed project to haul uranium from a mine in New Mexico by train and process it at the mill. (Denver Post Aug. 20, 2010)

Proposed state legislation takes aim at uranium mill cleanup in Colorado

> See here

EPA review and possible revision of radon emission standard for operating uranium mill tailings

> See here

CCAT withdraws from Cotter uranium mill cleanup advisory group

A nonprofit group is withdrawing from a citizens advisory group for the Cotter Corp. uranium mill Superfund cleanup site near Cañon City. In a letter to the state health department, Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste Inc. called the citizens advisory group "an exercise in futility" that hasn't allowed for public influence on state and federal regulators' decisions on cleanup plans. (Examiner Apr. 16, 2009)

Cotter aims to reopen Cañon City uranium mill in 2014 to process ores from Mt Taylor mine

Cotter Corp. officially will begin the process of refurbishing the uranium mill south of Cañon City to restart processing yellow cake uranium. Cotter will begin a process of studies and refurbishment that will culminate in being able to begin processing in August 2014. Cotter spokesman John Hamrick said the mill would be processing uranium for the Mount Taylor mine in New Mexico. The deposit there is estimated to last 25 years. Cotter must go through a license amendment before they can begin refurbishing the mill. During that process, the company will determine what part of the circa-1979 facility needs to be replaced. (Cañon City Daily Record Mar. 27, 2009)
Cotter spokesman John Hamrick said the company estimates refurbishment will cost close to $200 million for a new conventional mill. (Cañon City Daily Record Mar. 28, 2009)

Cotter to close secondary impoundment pond at Cañon City mill

Cotter has committed to close its 40-acre secondary impoundment pond with its recent license amendment with the state, plant manager John Hamrick told the Lincoln Park/Cotter Superfund Community Advisory Group on Feb. 26, 2009. (Cañon City Daily Record Feb. 27, 2009)

Soil cleanup at Cañon City uranium mill completed

Cotter Corp. earlier this month wrapped up a several million dollar cleanup project that focused on removal of contaminated soil from the old tailings pond site. Contamination from old unlined tailings ponds seeped into the groundwater during the early days of the mill operation, which geared up in 1958. Lined ponds are now in use to store tailings, but contaminated soil remained in the old tailings pond area.
A contractor, employing about 30 specialized workers, moved soil from April through the first week of October. All totaled, 234,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil was removed. That soil, mostly contaminated with uranium and molybdenum, is piled in a corner of the newer lined impoundment area where it has been sprayed with a soil tactifier to prevent wind-borne contamination, said mill Manager John Hamrick. (Pueblo Chieftain Oct. 17, 2008)

CDPHE cites Cotter for groundwater contamination near Cañon City uranium mill

On July 25, 2008, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) issued a Notice of Violation to Cotter Corp. for exceeding the 30 migrogram per liter groundwater standard for uranium north and west of the mill complex.
> Download Notice of Violation July 25, 2008 (PDF)

Cotter Corp. pleads guilty to poisoning migratory birds at Cañon City uranium mill

On March 12, 2008, Cotter Corp., pleaded guilty and was sentenced in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado for its role in the poisoning deaths of migratory birds at its uranium processing facility near Cañon City, Colo., the Justice Department announced.
Cotter Corp. pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in connection with a spill of approximately 4,500 gallons of organic solvent on Oct. 21, 2005, which escaped from a building at the processing facility and flowed into a catchment pond. Approximately 40 geese and ducks were killed after coming into contact with the solvent in the pond, which was removed by Cotter employees within a few days of the spill.
Under the plea agreement, Magistrate Kathleen Tafoya sentenced the company to pay the maximum fine of $15,000, make additional restitution of $15,000 and be placed on 12 months probation. During this time, the company is required to prepare and implement an environmental compliance plan designed to prevent future spills and ensure speedy, effective clean-up of any discharges that might occur. (U.S. Department of Justice Mar. 12, 2008)

Cotter Corp. considers reopening its Cañon City uranium mill

The state's only uranium mill, run by Cotter Corp., has decided against efforts to dispose of out-of-state radioactive material and instead is deciding whether it is feasible to refurbish and reopen the mill.
Cotter Corp. opened its uranium mill south of Canon City in 1958. In 1988, the mill site and a portion of the neighboring Lincoln Park community became an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site because contamination from unlined tailings ponds seeped into the groundwater. The mill has operated off and on for short periods since the early 1980s. Due to the costs of operation, the mill has not operated for nearly two years, but continues to employ a small crew of workers.
"We are going through the process of making a decision whether to reopen the mill," Cotter mill manager John Hamrick, said. "The equipment is old and tired and they don't make the parts anymore." Cotter has contracted with an engineering firm to provide a conceptual cost analysis for refurbishment of the mill. That report is expected in April 2008, then Cotter managers will review it during the ensuing 60 days before making a decision. "Hopefully the management will say 'yes' to refurbishment which means most of the existing buildings and infrastructure will have to be replaced," Hamrick said.
If Cotter officials do decide to refurbish the mill, they will first have to pay an engineering firm close to $1 million for an in-depth analysis with detailed plans for the new mill's construction. It is a process that will take about a year before actual construction would start, Hamrick said. Hamrick said before a contractor is hired for the work, the Colorado Department of Public Health would have to approve a license amendment for construction of a new mill. (The Pueblo Chieftain March 1, 2008)

CDPHE releases Cañon City uranium mill 2006 Environmental Performance Report

> Download Environmental and Occupational Performance Report, ALARA Review, and Annual Report on Remedial Action Plan Activities for Calendar Year 2006, Radioactive Materials License No. 369-01 (CDPHE)

State identifies potential leak at Cañon City uranium mill tailings impoundment

State health officials say they think they have detected a small leak in the lined tailings impoundment at the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill, but say the leak does not pose a health risk. Cotter officials say they believe there is no leak. (The Pueblo Chieftain July 9, 2007)

CDPHE issues Notice of Violation to Cotter on exothermic reaction leading to worker being covered in yellowcake at Cañon City mill

"On March 2, 2006, at approximately 0015 hours, a worker attempted to relieve pressure from a drum of yellowcake that exhibited bulging. The incident occurred in the calciner enclosure, which is a posted airborne area, and has an aggressive ventilation system. The worker was in PPE assigned for the calciner, which included Tyveks and respiratory protection. [...] The yellowcake product is from peroxide extraction and low-fired calcining, which yields a soluble yellowcake.
It is known that the peroxide extraction method generates O2 gas. Standard practice is to wait 3 hours prior to capping a drum to allow the chemical reaction to finish, and for heat to dissipate. According to the information provided by the worker, the drum was filled at about 1400 hours, capped at 1700, put back into the calciner and the lid removed at about 2400 (sic).
When the worker loosened the tightening bolt and nut on the sealing ring, an exothermic release occurred, resulting in the lid to fly up in the air, striking the operator on the respirator helmet on the way down. About one half of the drum contents were released to the air. The force of the release defeated the flexible neck shroud used for sealing purposes on the respirator, and as such, his face, ears, eyes, and hair were covered in yellowcake. [...]"
> Download Notice of Violation, May 31, 2006 (PDF - CDPHE)

> See also: NRC issues revised Information Notice on prevention of gas buildup in yellow cake drums

State issues Notice of Violation to Cotter on organic solvent emissions

> Download Notice of Violation, May 22, 2006 (PDF)

State fines Cotter after Cañon City mill worker hurt

> Download CDPHE Notice of Violation - Assessment of Penalties and Order, Feb. 8, 2006 (PDF)

CDPHE invites comment on proposed alternate feed processing of Sequoyah Fuels Raffinate Material at Cotter's Cañon City Mill

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will accept written comments from the public and interested parties on the Materials Acceptance Report for the receipt of 11,000 tons of Sequoyah Fuels Raffinate Material for processing at the Cotter Cañon City Milling Facility.
Written comments will be accepted through February 21, 2006.

> Download CDPHE Notice of Public Comment Period - Sequoyah Fuels Raffinate Material, Jan. 20, 2006 (PDF)
> Download Materials Acceptance Report for Sequoyah Fuels Raffinate Material, Jan. 13, 2006 (486k PDF)

State cites Cotter with air quality violations

The Cañon City uranium and vanadium mill failed a stack test and was found to be in violation of the conditional license’s requirements that the plant operate using two bag houses and a scrubbing unit to lessen the emissions, APCD public information officer Chris Dann said on Jan. 12, 2006.
The opacity levels are the density of the smoke leaving the stack of the Decomposition Kiln and Fusion Furnace, according to the N.O.V. The normal Environmental Protection Agency limits are 20 percent opacity, and Cotter had levels between 39.2 and 45 percent. The report was issued on Dec. 9, 2005, one month after the violations. (Cañon City Daily Record, Jan. 13, 2006)

Cotter Corp. lays off mill workers due to poor economics

On Nov. 4, 2005, Cotter Corp. announced that 78 uranium mill workers - most of the workforce - will be laid off temporarily during the next 60 days while the company addresses a host of startup issues. Last spring Cotter Corp. launched a multimillion-dollar renovation of the aged uranium mill south of Canon City in an effort to ramp back up to full operation to meet growing world nuclear demand.
A number of supply and production problems now are slowing the company's timeline for achieving full production, Cotter Corp. spokesman Jerry Powers said. (Pueblo Chieftain Nov. 5, 2005)

ATSDR releases report about lead exposure in Lincoln Park for public review and comment

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) released its public comment version of the public health consultations about lead exposure in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Cañon City, Colo. Because sufficient data is not available, the agency needs to conduct follow-up testing to determine if lead exposures in neighborhood children pose a health hazard and if the levels of lead-contaminated house dust pose health hazards.
The consultations are available for public review through October 7, 2005.
> View ATSDR release Sep. 8, 2005

CDPHE invites comment on proposed disposal of AMAX uranium contaminated soil at Cotter mill site

CDPHE announces the availability of a Materials Acceptance Report for the proposed acceptance of 8,000 tons of radioactive materials from the AMAX Research and Development site (AMAX R&D) in Golden, Colorado, for direct disposal at Cotter Corp.'s Cañon City Milling facility. The soils at the Amax R & D Center East Parking Lot (and Surrounding Areas) are impacted radiologically as a result of prior "pilot scale" uranium extraction operations undertaken by the Kerr-McGee Corporation in the late 1950's and early 1960's.
The comment period extends through May 17, 2005.

> Download CDPHE release Apr. 22, 2005 (PDF)
> Download Materials Acceptance Report, Apr. 5, 2005 (4.4MB PDF)

State cites Cotter for contamination incidents

On April 12, 2005, CDPHE issued a Notice of Violation to Cotter Corp. for two contamination incidents that occured in October 2004 and February 2005. An employee had intakes of 22 mg of soluble uranium each from these incidents, while the weekly limit is 10 mg.

> Download Notice of Violation, April 12, 2005 (PDF)

Remedial action for the Old Tailings Ponds Area

CDPHE finalizes decision on remedial action for Old Tailings Ponds Area

The Department has finalized the Decision Document for the Old Tailings Pond Area remedy. The Selected Remedy remains Excavation and On-site Disposal in the Primary Impoundment.

> Download Decision Document and Response to Public Comment, May 1, 2006 (202k PDF)

CDPHE invites comment on Proposed Plan for Old Ponds Area at Cotter Mill

The preferred alternative for remedial action in the Old Ponds Area is "Selected Excavation".

> Download CDPHE Factsheet: Proposed Plan for Old Ponds Area/Cotter Mill, May 2005 (PDF)

Feasibility Study for the Old Ponds Area

The final draft of the "Feasibility Study for the Old Ponds Area" has been received by CDPHE, but it will not be posted on the website due to the large size of the document. (CDPHE March 17, 2005)
> View details (CDPHE)

State renews Cotter's Cañon City mill license, but prohibits waste acceptance from other sites, and requires transition to dry tailings management scheme

On Dec. 15, 2004, State health officials approved a heavily-conditioned, five-year extension of the uranium-processing license that the Cotter Corp. has had for more than 46 years but turned down the company’s request to become the state’s first nuclear-waste storage facility.
The proposed five-year license will allow continued processing of uranium and vanadium by Cotter but will bar disposal of radioactive waste from other sites, such as thorium-laced radioactive soils from a superfund site in Maywood, N.J., the company recently requested permission to dispose of at its Cañon City facility.
The proposal also requires Cotter to drain its impoundment ponds, which are used to store mill tailings, and convert to a dry storage system.
The license renewal is also subject to a hearing if requested by Cotter or any other party in the next 60 days. (Cañon City Daily Record Dec. 15, 2004)
On Feb. 1, 2005, Cotter filed a request for hearing.

> For CDPHE release, license text and decision analysis, see CDPHE Cotter page .

Cotter prepares resumption of uranium ore processing at Cañon City mill

Cotter Corp. has "reinvigorated" operations at its three mines on Colorado's Western Slope - as well as doubled the workforce in the Cañon City mill - in anticipation of increased uranium and vanadium production. The mill began crushing ore on Aug. 24, 2004.
This announcement came only two days after local residents and local government officials had called the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to close the mill, based on Cotter's dismal health and safety record. (Cañon City Daily Record Sep. 17, 2004)

Cañon City advocacy group wins EPA national award for excellence

On June 10, 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced its prestigious 2004 Citizen Excellence in Community Involvement Award will be awarded to the Cañon City-based advocacy group, Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste. CCAT is recognized for its leadership and participation in the community involvement process at the Lincoln Park Study Area Superfund site.

> View EPA Region 8 release Jun. 10, 2004

EPA clears a hurdle in Cotter Corp. plan to accept Superfund waste

The Environmental Protection Agency recently notified Cotter the agency had rescinded an order against the plan to accept Superfund waste at Cotter's uranium mill south of Cañon City. (AP 4 May, 2004)

EPA awards $50,000 grant to CCAT

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a Technical Assistance Grant of $50,000 to Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste, Inc. for the Lincoln Park Superfund Site near Cañon City.
The purpose for TAG funds is to hire technical scientific advisors to assist the community in interpreting technical reports, site conditions, and EPA's cleanup proposals and decisions. (Cañon City Daily Record, Oct. 7, 2003)

Contaminated water seeps around plugged permeable wall

A "last line of defense" underground treatment wall is allowing uranium-tainted water to seep downstream from the Cotter Corp. property on the east edge of Cañon City, according to a recent report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
According to the report issued by the health department this summer, uranium levels in the water bypassing the underground dam were at .6567 parts per million in the second quarter of 2003, compared with levels of.0026 ppm in the second quarter of 2002. (Cañon City Daily Record, Sep. 25, 2003)

Cotter License Renewal Application 2003

On September 15, 2003, Cotter applied for a license renewal of the Cañon City uranium mill. Cotter's operating license expired more than three years ago. However, a health department regulation under the heading "Expiration, Decommissioning and Termination of Licenses" states, "With respect to possession of radioactive materials and residual radioactive contamination, each specific license continues in effect beyond the expiration date until the department notifies the licensee in writing that the license is terminated."

Cotter's new license will allow activities ranging from expanded operations including direct disposal of waste from other sites [see: Disposal of contaminated soil from Maywood, NJ] to immediate decommissioning, demolition and clean-up. (Cañon City Daily Record Feb. 20, 2004)

Cotter License Renewal Information (CDPHE, documents submitted by Cotter)
Cotter Mills License Renewal Application Project Tracking (CDPHE)

State cites Cotter for more violations

Cotter Corporation was cited in July 2003 by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for "significant deficiencies" in its radioactive materials program.
The violations were found during the health department's routine inspection of the uranium mill on the south edge of Cañon City on June 9-12, 2003. The inspection included visual observation of the facility, an in-depth review of records and interviews with Cotter personnel.
Cotter resolved some of the violations through a June 20 letter to the health department. Other violations remain unaddressed. The one-year record for violations by Cotter is 24 in 2002.
In addition to citing Cotter for problems, the health department also detailed several areas in which the company had improved its performance. (Cañon City Daily Record, Aug. 6, 2003)

No excess plutonium in Cañon City soil samples

The soil in Cañon City's Lincoln Park area shows no significant elevation of plutonium, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Lincoln Park is located near the Cotter Uranium Processing Mill.
"Both sets of data show results below any health concern and require no further action," said Douglas Benevento, executive director at the health department, in a press release. "They indicate no significant level of plutonium present above the background levels from nuclear fallout." All soils contain some level of plutonium as the result of above-ground nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s said the health department press release. Soil samples were taken from 20 Lincoln Park locations in January 2003 and were tested by the health department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Canon City Daily Record, July 24, 2003)

> Download


Governor signs bill imposing additional requirements on Cotter Corp.

On May 7, 2003, Colorado lawmakers passed and sent to the governor a bill imposing new licensing requirements on the Cotter Corp. uranium mill near Cañon City. The Colorado House and Senate approved HB1358, the Cotter bill.
The company may proceed with a pending application to receive up to 470,000 tons of radioactive soil from a Maywood, N.J., Superfund site.
However, any new license, renewal or amendment - including changes that might be requested in the Maywood application - would come under HB1358 rules. Upon Gov. Bill Owens' signature, the new HB1358 law will require the company to pay the county $50,000 for an independent study of the impacts of newly proposed waste operations at the site. It will require a meeting for public comment to be conducted by a mediator chosen by the state. (Pueblo Chieftain May 8, 2003)
On June 3, 2003, Governor Bill Owens signed the bill. (Cañon City Daily Record June 5, 2003)

> View (PDF format) or Download (WordPerfect format) Bill HB03-1358

EPA contradicting State: radioactive waste shipments to Cañon City mill unacceptable

On Jan. 3, 2003, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified Cotter Corporation of the unacceptability of waste shipments to the Cañon City uranium mill site. This is in contradiction to the suspension release issued by the State on Jan. 2, 2003.

> Download EPA letter (Jan. 3, 2003) (PDF)

State lifts suspension to accept radioactive waste

On Jan. 2, 2003, the State lifted the suspension it imposed this summer on the mill's authorization to accept radioactive waste. (Denver Post Jan. 4, 2003)

> Download CDPHE suspension release (PDF)

State cites Cotter Corp's uranium mill again

The Colorado state health department has cited the Cotter Uranium Mill in Fremont County for more safety violations on top of the 16 it found last April. A Nov. 19, 2002, surprise inspection of the Cotter uranium mill resulted on Dec. 12 in notice of two violations and three areas of concern from the state health department.
The violations involve the condition of the mill's process tanks and drums containing radioactive contents and improper or inadequate labeling of drums with radioactive material. The areas of concern address air pollution violations, the reduced water level in the impoundments and the unnecessary labeling of wooden crates. (Cañon City Daily Record, Denver Post, 1 Jan 2003)

Cotter mill gets green light for test run to verify safety measures

The Colorado Department of Public Health will allow Cotter Corp. to conduct limited processing to demonstrate whether new safety procedures are acceptable at the uranium mill.
The health department announced on Sep. 13, 2002, that Cotter will be permitted to process 1,500 cubic yards [1150 m3] of uranium material from Cotter's Schwartzwalder Mine near Golden, and 825 cubic yards [630 m3] of calcium fluoride from the Metropolis facility in Illinois.
Cotter remains barred from receiving any other shipments for processing pending the Tuesday deadline for public comment on worker safety issues and a review of those comments by the state health department. Cotter was directed to suspend processing July 9, 2002. (Pueblo Chieftain Sep 14, 2002)

> View CDPHE release Sep 13, 2002

State invites public comment on receiving radioactive materials at Cañon City uranium mill

Public comment is being accepted by the Colorado Department of Public Health in connection with worker safety problems at Cotter Corp's Cañon City uranium mill.
The health department announced on Aug. 29, 2002, it will accept public comment Sept. 3 - Sept. 24, 2002. Written comments will be considered by the department before it makes a final decision on whether to allow the plant to again receive outside materials for processing.
Cotter officials hope to receive radioactive materials from Li Tungsten, N.Y., and the Maywood, N.J., cleanup sites in order to make ends meet while it works to finalize plans to process zirconium ore, which is relatively low in radioactivity. (Pueblo Chieftain Aug 30, 2002)

> View CDPHE release Aug 29, 2002

The state health department has extended a public comment period on worker-safety issues associated with Cotter Corp. uranium mill. The comment period was extended through Oct. 2, 2002. (Pueblo Chieftain Sep 25, 2002)

> See also: CDPHE release Sep. 24, 2002

State bars Cotter from receiving radioactive materials

The Cotter Corp. uranium mill has been barred by the Colorado state health department from receiving any radioactive materials until the company addresses unresolved issues relating to worker protection.
In a letter written on July 9, 2002, Jake Jacobi, program manager for the Colorado Department of Public Heath's laboratory and radiation services division, notified Cotter that "many of the items identified in the department's April notice of violation are still not resolved."
"The department is especially concerned about unresolved issues relating to the doses to radiation workers - dose calculations, bioassay and respiratory protection. Ensuring worker protection is of paramount importance to the department," Jacobi wrote.
Although he recognized that progress has been made as Cotter and state health officials meet to resolve issues, Jacobi said, in the interest of worker safety, Cotter will suspend future receipt of radioactive materials for processing or for disposal. The only exceptions are materials already en route to the mill or materials meant for lab testing. (Pueblo Chieftain July 13, 2002)

State cites Cotter with 16 violations

A state inspection of the Cotter Corporation showed 16 violations of state regulations, according to a report prepared April 23, 2002, by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Four of the violations, covering airborne radioactivity, a failure to implement a program to keep radioactivity doses as low as possible, unacceptable soluble uranium intake, and lack of action when a urine test showed a higher-than acceptable level of uranium, were repeat violations, the report said.
Cotter, which processes uranium in a mill five miles south of Cañon City, has 30 days to remedy the violations, or face fines of up to $21,850.
"The number and type of violations identified in this inspection indicate a serious and substantial breakdown in the management oversight of this facility," the report stated.
"This Department is especially concerned that Cotter has failed to address radiation safety issues that have been identified by Cotter's internal review . . . by an independent auditor and by the Department. Further, Cotter often does not submit required documents on schedule," the report charged. (Cañon City Daily Record May 10, 2002)

Disposal of contaminated soil from Maywood, NJ

Cotter quits fight for disposal of Maywood waste

The state's only uranium mill, run by Cotter Corp., has decided against efforts to dispose of out-of-state radioactive material and instead is deciding whether it is feasible to refurbish and reopen the mill. (The Pueblo Chieftain March 1, 2008)

Federal Judge upholds Colorado state ruling to deny Cotter's Cañon City mill bid to import waste for direct disposal

On Nov. 30, 2007, a Denver District Court judge ruled that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment was within its rights to deny a permit to Cotter Corp. to dispose of radioactive soil at its Cañon City-area plant. Judge Christina Habas ruled also that the state and a citizens group that were the target of the lawsuit could collect legal costs from the corporation. (Colorado Springs Gazette Nov. 30, 2007)
> Download Court Opinion: Denver District Court · CDPHE

On Feb. 2, 2007, Cotter Corp. had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver seeking to overturn a ban on receiving waste soils from New Jersey. The state health department issued the decision barring the company from receiving Maywood, N.J. waste soils. (Pueblo Chieftain Feb. 21, 2006)

Judge upholds Colorado state ruling to deny Cotter's Cañon City mill bid to import waste for direct disposal

On April 4, 2006, an administrative law judge upheld the state health department's decision to bar Cotter Corp. from accepting radioactive material for direct disposal at its Lincoln Park uranium mill. Judge Richard Dana, a Denver-based judicial arbiter, released his ruling on licensing issues for Cotter Corp. after considering evidence presented during a week-long hearing in September 2005. Cotter Corp. requested the hearing to protest proposed revisions to its license which were outlined by state health officials. Most notably, Cotter Corp. wanted to be able to accept hazardous waste - such as 470,000 tons of waste soils from the Maywood, N.J., Superfund site - for direct disposal without first processing the material. (Pueblo Chieftain April 5, 2006)

Judge rejects Cotter appeal - Company denied right to dispose of 24,000 tons of Maywood soils

The Cotter Corp. has been denied the right to dispose of 24,000 tons of thorium-laced radioactive waste from Maywood, N.J., as a result of a legal decision issued on March 9, 2005. The waste was subject to a special adjudicatory hearing after the company appealed a July 9, 2004, decision by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment denying importation and disposal.
The company has 30 days to file exceptions to judge Richard W. Dana's decision. (Cañon City Daily Record Mar 11, 2005)

> Download Richard W. Dana's decision, March 9, 2005 (PDF)

State denies Cotter request to accept Maywood waste for disposal

On July 9, 2004, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment denied the Cotter Uranium Mill's request for state permission to accept the first allotment of radioactive-contaminated soils from a New Jersey Superfund site and to dispose of the waste at its plant two-and-a-half-miles south of Cañon City. This allotment was to have been composed of up to 24,000 cubic yards [18,350 cubic meters] of soils, contaminated with thorium from production of lantern components, which have been removed from properties that are part of the Maywood Chemical Superfund Site in New Jersey.
According to the department, "the company's procedures necessary to ensure the safe and compliant handling of the materials are not adequate. Also, it is unclear how much space is left in the company impoundment to accept all the plant's building rubble and contaminated soils when the mill is finally decommissioned."
> View CDPHE release July 9, 2004

Court orders State Health Department to act on Cotter's application for disposal of contaminated soil

A judge in Denver has ordered the state health department to act on Cotter Corp.'s application to dispose of 470,000 tons of low-radioactive waste soils from Maywood, N.J. District Judge Herbert Stern issued his ruling on June 29, 2004, giving state officials 10 days to act on Cotter's application, which has been pending for more than two years, according to John Watson, attorney for Cotter Corp. (The Pueblo Chieftain June 30, 2004)

State defers decision on acceptability of Maywood soils at Cotter mill by one year

On Dec. 19, 2003, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced it "has concluded that the Cotter Corp. proposal to accept contaminated soils from the Maywood, New Jersey, Superfund site should be considered as part of the department's overall evaluation of Cotter's license renewal request." A draft version of the license renewal is expected to be available for public review and comment late in 2004. So, a decision will be deferred by one year, at least.
> View CDPHE release Dec. 19, 2003

State Health Department seeks additional public comment on Maywood soils Environmental Assessment Report

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is seeking additional public comment on the environmental assessment submitted by Cotter Corporation in connection with the company’s request for authority to receive 470,000 tons of contaminated soils from a Maywood, New Jersey, Superfund site for disposal at its Cañon City milling facility.
Comments were accepted through March 31, 2003.

> View CDPHE press release March 7, 2003 (PDF)

State rejects application for waste shipments to Cañon City uranium mill

On Oct. 15, 2002, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rejected the Cotter Corporation's application to ship New Jersey Superfund waste to the company's Cañon City plant for disposal, pending submission and approval of a more comprehensive environmental assessment.
Douglas H. Benevento, the Department of Public Health and Environment's acting executive director and its director of environmental programs, said the decision was made, not on the specifications of the material, but on the inadequacy of the environmental assessment the company was required to submit as part of its application to receive the waste.

> View CDPHE release Oct 15, 2002

Testing indicates Maywood soils safe for disposal at Cañon City mill

An independent environmental test relating to the proposed disposal of 470,000 tons of Maywood, N.J., Superfund site waste soils at the Cotter Corp. uranium mill found no significant risk to Fremont County.
Sandra Attebery and Tom Grethel of AG Engineering of Cañon City did that review on behalf of the Fremont County commission and concluded: "The Maywood soil material poses no significant risk for Fremont County. The radiation levels are insignificant as compared to background and natural radiation." (The Pueblo Chieftain June 21, 2002)

NRC confirms Maywood FUSRAP soil is classified 11e.(2) byproduct material

On May 28, 2002, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) decided that all of the contaminated soil at the Maywood FUSRAP site is classified as Atomic Energy Act section 11e.(2) byproduct material. In consequence, the material can only be deposited at sites holding a license for (uranium) mill tailings disposal, but not at sites licensed for low-level radioactive waste disposal.

> Download NRC COMSECY-02-0022, April 26, 2002 (PDF), and related Staff Requirements Memorandum NRC SRM May 28, 2002 (PDF)

Residents rip Cotter over planned waste transport to Cañon City mill

In two emotionally charged public meetings on May 9, 2002, opponents of both Maywood soil shipments and Cotter Corp. lined up to send a message that neither Cotter nor radioactive materials are welcome in Fremont County.
"The message we got was 'We want you shut down and out of here,"' said Pat Mutz, general manager for the Cotter uranium mill.
Only a few of the 75 to 80 people who spoke at the two meetings were in support of the proposal to bring low-level radioactive material from New Jersey as intermediate cover for the uranium mill tailings. Officials estimated there were 250 people at the 2 p.m. meeting and 175 at the evening meeting. (Canon City Daily Record May 11, 2002)

Waste shipment diverted to Utah disposal site

A first shipment of 30,000 tons (27,216 metric tonnes) of contamined material from Maywood, New Jersey, originally destined for the Cañon City mill site was diverted to the Envirocare of Utah Corp. radioactive waste disposal facility in Clive, Utah. Given the new legal situation in Colorado, the diversion was selected in order to continue the decontamination of the Maywood site. (Pueblo Chieftain April 12, 2002)

Governor signs bill requiring public involvement

On April 5, 2002, Gov. Bill Owens signed bill HB02-1408. It would require that companies planning to store radioactive waste hold two public hearings, at their expense, and gather and disclose information on potential environmental and economic effects of their plans.

> Download full text from Colorado General Assembly site


Cañon Council opposes Cotter's waste contract

On March 18, 2002, the Cañon City Council passed a resolution urging the delay of transport of 470,000 tons of radioactive material from the Maywood, N.J., Superfund site to Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill. The city has no direct regulatory power over Cotter Corp. or the transportation corridors between New Jersey and the Cotter mill, however. (The Pueblo Chieftain March 20, 2002)

Governor halts radioactive soil shipment to Cotter mill

On March 14, 2002, Gov. Bill Owens' administration put a hold on proposed shipments of New Jersey radioactive material to the Cotter Corp. Uranium Mill near Cañon City until the issue is investigated. (The Pueblo Chieftain March 15, 2002)

Fremont commissioners seek delay in shipment of New Jersey waste

Fremont County commissioners will ask for a delay in shipments of radioactive soil from New Jersey to the Cotter Corp Uranium Mill. The commission on March 12, 2002, heard from members of the newly formed Colorado Citizens Against ToxicWaste (CCAT) group that opposes letting the community "become a national nuclear waste dump". (The Pueblo Chieftain March 13, 2002)


Cotter Corp. plans disposal of Maywood, N.J. material in Cañon City tailings impoundment

Cotter Corp. has been designated to receive more than 450,000 short tons (408,000 t) of radioactive soil from the Maywood, New Jersey, Superfund site . The soil is contaminated with thorium tailings from the cleanup of 20 commercial properties. According to Cotter, the Maywood soils are five to 10 times less radioactive than the processed uranium ore already on the site. The waste, which would be delivered by rail car, would be used as cover material inside approved uranium disposal pits built in 1979.
Cotter Corp. is also hoping to take up to 47,000 short tons (43,000 t) of radioactive tungsten tailings from a Long Island Superfund site. (Denver Post Feb. 27, 2002)

> See also: EPA Region 2: Maywood Chemical Co Superfund site

EPA halts soil cleanup

On Jan. 3, 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it plans to halt the cleanup of soil contaminated by uranium and molybdenum at Cotter Corp.'s uranium mill site near Cañon City, saying the soil is "no longer a threat." The decision cannot take effect until after a 30-day public comment period. (Rocky Mountain News Jan. 4, 2002)

> See also: EPA Region 8 News Release: Lincoln Park Superfund Site Record of Decision (Jan. 3, 2002)

$41 million award to Cañon City uranium mill residents - overturned by appeals court

Twenty-six property owners near the Cotter Corp. uranium mill in Cañon City will share more than $41 million and seven other people will receive medical monitoring under a federal court judgment entered Nov. 20, 2001 by Denver U.S. District Judge Zita Wienshienk. The plaintiffs contended uranium from the Cotter mill contaminated their neighborhood and damaged their health.
Cotter is expected to appeal the judgment to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where another multimillion-dollar judgment in a similar civil suit also is pending. (Rocky Mountain News Nov. 22, 2001)

On April 22, 2003, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the jury award won in 2001 by residents allegedly sickened by radiation near the Cotter uranium mill in Cañon City. A three-judge panel ruled that a lower court failed to assure expert testimony in the case was relevant and reliable. The panel also said evidence supporting and opposing the experts' reliability was improperly limited. The district court was ordered to schedule a new trial for the claims against Cotter Corp. on allegations of negligence and trespass. (AP April 23, 2003)

United States Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals: No. 01-1197 - Dodge v. Cotter Corporation (April 22, 2003)
On Aug. 25, 2003, the plaintiffs filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court (asking to review the decision of the lower court).
On Nov. 10, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case and sent it back to federal district court for trial. (AP Nov. 13, 2003)
U.S. Supreme Court: Docket 03-332 - Dodge, Joseph, et al. v. Cotter Corporation


$16 million awarded to Cañon City uranium mill residents

On June 28, 2001, a federal jury ordered Cotter Corp. to pay $16.3 million to 32 people who suffered radiation poisoning and other ailments while living near its uranium mill outside Cañon City. The amount does not include interest or future medical costs awarded to 30 of the plaintiffs who first filed suit against the Cotter Corp. in 1991. Attorney Rebecca Lorenz said the total will exceed $30 million. Three of the plaintiffs have died in the decade since the suit was filed.
Cotter's lead attorney said the case will be appealed at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Denver Post June 29, 2001)

Ex-Cañon City mill worker receives cancer compensation

Lynn Boughton, former chemicist at the Cotter Corp. Cañon City uranium mill, finally received cancer compensation for the intestine cancer he contracted after having worked in the uranium industry for 20 years. Although uranium concentrations 700 times the normal level had been found in his intestine, Cotter Corp. and Pinnacol Assurance, the Colorado workers compensation insuror, dismissed the claims his illness were work-related.
For 21 years, 70-year-old Boughton has fought Cotter and Pinnacol to obtain his disability benefits. Pinnacol refused to pay Boughton's benefits despite orders from an administrative law judge and the state industrial claims appeals panel. Pinnacol appealed those rulings to the Colorado Court of Appeals, where it lost in November 1999. Pinnacol and Cotter had argued that no causal relationship could be established between Boughton's cancer and his years of exposure to radioactive uranium dust in the Cotter mill. But Boughton provided testimony by a nuclear physicist and a medical doctor linking his illness to uranium exposure, the court of appeals affirmed.
Following the ruling, Administrative Law Judge Judge Cullen Wheelock on April 18, 2000, ordered Pinnacol to pay Boughton $427,148.65 in disability benefits and interest dating back to 1979, when his illness forced him to leave his job. (Denver Rocky Mountain News, May 22&23, 2000)

General Atomics acquires Cotter Corp.

General Atomics has acquired Cotter Corp from Commonwealth Edison Company (Nuclear Fuel, March 6, 2000)

General Atomics (GA) is to buy Cotter Corp from Commonwealth Edison. Reports speculate that GA plans to compete in the processing of 'alternate feed material' from the cleanup of government sites, and Cotter's Cañon City mill in Colorado would enable it to do that. Cotter is reported to have a uranium stockpile at the mill that could yield at least 800 000 lb U3O8 (308 tU). (UI News Briefing Feb. 16, 2000)

Lincoln Park residents awarded $2.9 million in Cotter Corp. lawsuit

Federal jury says uranium mill caused illness

On July 15, 1998, a federal jury awarded $2.9 million to 14 residents of Lincoln Park who were contaminated by Cotter Corp.'s Cañon City uranium mill during the 1970s and '80s.
The mill was in operation from 1958 to 1987. Liquid wastes containing radionuclides and heavy metals were discharged from 1958 to 1978 into eleven unlined tailings ponds. The ponds were replaced in 1982 with the construction of two lined impoundments. Prior to 1982, a number of Lincoln Park wells showed elevated levels of contamination.
Witnesses testified during the trial, how pollution, mostly dusty powder from the mill contaminated the residents' groundwater, vegetable gardens, lawns, and homes. Pollutants included uranium, molybdenum, arsenic, and other heavy metals.
The residents have suffered a variety of illnesses, cancer and arthritis. One woman, a nonsmoker, died of lung cancer. Handicapped rodeo rider Jack Hadley has a condition known as multiple exotosis, or abnormal bony growths throughout the body. One expert testified that Hadley's multiple exotosis was caused by his mother's exposure to molybdenum while pregnant.
(Denver Post July 17, 1998, Business Wire July 17, 1998 )

An analysis of cancer statistics for the Lincoln Park neighborhood near Cañon City had found no statistically increased rate of cancer incidence. The study examined data collected by the State Health Department's Colorado Central Cancer Registry from 1979 through 1995.
> View CDPHE News Release May 1, 1998

On Feb. 11, 2000, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the District Court's decision and remanded the case for a new trial. (No. 99-1178 )

Restart of Cañon City mill

General Atomics (GA) is to buy Cotter Corp from Commonwealth Edison. Reports speculate that GA plans to compete in the processing of 'alternate feed material' from the cleanup of government sites, and Cotter's Cañon City mill in Colorado would enable it to do that. Cotter is reported to have a uranium stockpile at the mill that could yield at least 800 000 lb U3O8 (308 tU). (UI News Briefing Feb. 16, 2000)

On March 31, 1999, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment accepted Cotter Corp's Readiness Report for resumption of operations of its Cañon City mill, which was on standby since 1985. (CDPHE News Release March 31, 1999 )

The Cañon City mill, on standby since 1987, is to be restarted, according to Cotter Corp officials. Production is expected to resume within the next eighteen months after the company completes an estimated US$1.5 million refurbishing project on the mill that will improve processing and waste handling [UI News Briefing 96/38].

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