Powertech CEO Clement's assertion in Denver newspaper editorial contradicted by CSU research paper
Aquifer at in-situ test site near Grover, Colorado left with higher levels of radioactivity and heavy metals
Posted January 5, 2008
In a December 28, 2007 guest editorial published in the Rocky Mountain News, Powertech CEO Richard Clement chastises the authors of a previous editorial critical of Powertech's proposal to mine uranium near Fort Collins, Colorado, and accuses them of making misleading and unsubstantiated assertions. Clement proclaims that "those who object to the granting of permits have an ... ethical obligation to base their opposition on sound science and accurate information" and challenges the authors "to present openly any and all scientific information and data that support their statements and conclusions".
Near the end of the piece, Clement makes his own factual assertions:
In fact, two in-situ uranium operations were successfully conducted and closed in Weld County (near Keota and Grover) in the 1970s, to the total satisfaction of the state of Colorado, with no negative impact on the public or environment.
In contrast to his earlier admonition to opponents to present supporting data, he cites no source.
The Grover in-situ uranium leaching project was operated by the Wyoming Mineral Corporation during 1977-1979 at a site four miles from the Weld County town of Grover, and about 25 miles northeast of Greeley. Because of the low grade and tonnage of uranium in the deposit, the project was designed to test the economics of various leach solutions and aquifer restoration techniques. No commercial mining was conducted.
After completion of aquifer restoration activity, the well fields were sealed. A few weeks later, well water samples were taken by the mining company and the Colorado Department of Health. Three months later, additional samples were taken by the two entities as well as Colorado State University.
In a 1981 research study of the Grover project by CSU graduate student Kenneth S. Wade, the author concludes (pgs. 60-61):
Restoration after in situ mining can restore groundwater to baseline total dissolved solids (TDS) but leaves levels of radionuclides, molybdenum, ammonia, nitrate, and selenium elevated above premining levels. Of special concern are the high gross alpha and beta activities for which there are no government standards for toxic levels.
...Further research should be undertaken to identify the sources of alpha and beta radiation in restored groundwater.
Earlier in the paper, the author discusses the observation that radioactivity and uranium levels actually increased after the aquifer was "restored" (pg. 51):
The variations in the radiochemical parameters (Table 8) through time often appears erratic, but wells G-5, G-6, and G-20 show a definite increase in alpha and beta activity, as well as uranium concentration, during the three months. This indicates the leach field had not reached equilibrium conditions by June 18th, 1979. These parameters are significantly higher than the baseline values and the trend indicates they are still increasing in some wells. The radionuclides mobilized by the leach solutions may have been adsorbed by clays or complexed by organic material and their concentration temporarily depressed by the clean water recycling and TDS reduction restoration methods. With the termination of restoration activities these materials may release radioactive products until equilibrium is established. It is also possible that the hydrogen peroxide in the leach solution has left the well field in an oxidizing state in which uranium and other radionuclides are soluble.
The Wade paper contradicts Mr. Clement's assertion of no negative impact to the environment from the Grover in-situ leaching project. While it may be true that state regulators were "totally satisfied" with the closure of the project, it appears that residents of the area were left with an aquifer with elevated levels of radioactivity and heavy metals. If Mr. Clements has credible evidence to the contrary, I invite him to send it to me for publication on this site.
Judge us on the facts - Richard F. Clement