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Uranium tangle, two years later

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Cally Carswell | Jul 23, 2009 12:45 PM

It’s all about the water. More to the point, it’s about Jackie Adolph’s belief that everyone in Colorado has a right to clean water.

"Why would we not?" she asked.

Since 2007, Adolph and fellow members of Coloradoans Against Resource Destruction, or CARD, have been doggedly defending that right, which they say is endangered by a proposed in-situ uranium mine in Weld County, Colo., an area much more densely populated than those that usually skirt uranium mines.

The basic premise of the dispute between CARD and Powertech (USA) Inc., the company hoping to tap Weld County’s uranium deposits, has changed little in the last two years. CARD remains "horrified", as Adolph puts it, by the threats uranium mining poses to the area water supply, and Powertech still counters that it’s capable of restoring the water to its current level of quality or better.

"That’s always the goal, no matter where you are in the United States," said Richard Clement, Powertech President and CEO.

But a few things have changed. The stakes were raised by Powertech’s recent announcement that it optioned the mineral and water rights to an additional 3,585 acres in Weld County, practically doubling the scope of its original plan.

And thanks, at least in part, to CARD’s efforts, the requirements of the permitting process Powertech will have to undertake are currently being hashed out by the state. Legislation passed in 2008 initiated a rulemaking process, now underway, to rewrite the rules governing in-situ uranium mining in Colorado. Powertech is waiting to submit its permit applications until the rulemaking is complete. Clement said they expect to apply for permits at both the state and federal levels by the end of the year.

Adolph, on the other hand, hopes that water quality standards will be set high enough in the new rules that uranium mining in Weld County won't be an option.

"The history is they do not restore the water," she said. "And really, I don’t know if they can."

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