Protect the Paradox Community
by Ruth Marie Moore
Sep 15, 2008 | 1111 views | 1 1 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print

I was at Jack Lee’s “Pro-Energy” meeting on July 29 and at the subsequent meeting for the Paradox Community on Aug. 25.

At Jack Lee’s meeting I and 10 other people were not allowed to speak about the fact that we are against the proposed uranium mill being built in the Paradox Valley nor to state any of the reasons or facts for that being what we think. I stayed at the meeting because I like my neighbors, I love living in Paradox and I wanted to listen to what my neighbors had to say. I was shocked that we couldn’t speak about being against the mill or we would be escorted out of the meeting by the two sheriffs standing at each side of the door.

I have been friends with some of the people there for over 16 years, that means a lot to me. So I listened and heard that people need jobs, though I don’t know of anyone in Paradox that actually wants to work at the mill. I know of a couple of guys that drive truck or mine that would have related jobs.

The members on the Montrose County advisory planning committee that were there were Jack Lee, Ken Heldman and Marty Warner. Liz Steele came in the middle of the meeting. Bob Hampton was not there. Jack and stated that he was for the mill, Marty said she was there to listen and she asked for a show of hands of those for (25), against (11) and undecided (4) about the proposed mill.

Craig Pirazzi and Ron Steele arranged for a Paradox Valley community meeting on Aug. 25. Although it was hastily arranged over 35 Paradox citizens came and each person could speak for five minutes about their viewpoints about the proposed uranium mill. A show of hands indicated that those for and against were about equal in attendance with a few undecided. People talked about Paradox being a peaceful community where we basically live and let live and people get along, and that our community is more important than our views on the proposed mill.

I realized that I have a lot more to learn about this proposed mill. How can we know what to think unless we know all the facts? As a community we need to know what we are getting ourselves in for if this mill proposal is approved by the county commissioners and if later the Radioactive Materials License is approved by the CDPHE [Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment].

How would this mill affect our air? I shared some information on the amounts of pollutants that CDPHE allows the Cotter Uranium Mill near Canyon City to emit each year. (Particulate matter: 128.6 tons per year; sulfur dioxide: 19.3 tons per year; nitrogen oxides: 81.4 tons per year; volatile organic compounds: 89.6 tons per year; carbon monoxide: 67.0 tons per year; sulfuric acid mist: 47.0 tons per year; ammonia: 189,260.0 lbs. per year; sulfuric acid: 94,000.0 lbs. per year; sulfur trioxide: 46,063.0 lbs. per year; hydrochloric acid: 4,452.0 lbs. per year; nitric acid: 3,500 lbs. per year; radionuclides: 660 lbs. per year as uranium and thorium in particulate matter.)

Someone mentioned that the storms (and dusts) in the Paradox Valley travel from the northwest through and over the valley headed directly toward Redvale, Norwood and Telluride. Someone else asked why this proposed mill concerns citizens from Norwood and Telluride and other areas… Perhaps because they breathe.

I answered that uranium is an international concern because it can be made into bombs or into the nuclear power waste product plutonium that no one has found a long term, safe solution as to what to do with it. There’s enough of it already on Earth to destroy the planet if terrorists get it.

Another woman spoke about ground water: there is a major fault line and unstable gypsum where they propose putting the mill tailings; the aquifer here extends to Lake Powell and drainage goes into the Dolores River and into the Colorado River; by 30 years from now Energy Fuels proposes milling enough ore to produce 10,500,000 tons of finely ground mill tailings that they would store on top of a major fault line in a double (!) thin plastic liner that could crack (liners all eventually crack) and leak and contaminate the ground water. Once the groundwater is contaminated with the radionuclides, heavy metals and the chemical pollutants in mill tailings there is no way to clean it up. How much contamination of our groundwater and air will it take to affect our health and genetics and that of our animals?

Two women spoke about how they had lived by the mill in Uravan and that they were in good health. I thought about those who died from exposure to the radioactive dusts and Uravan is gone because the whole town had become radioactive after years of contamination from the mill. I don’t want Paradox to become a toxic radioactive ghost town.

Another person spoke about how Energy Fuels is going to make this mill safe with technological improvements. Only a few people had read the application for the special use permit that Energy Fuels gave to the Montrose County Planners and Commissioners to get approved. No one knew what the technological improvements are or how the proposed mill will be safe. Someone said you can’t trust companies. That they tell you anything to get what they want. Various people talked about Energy Fuels financial status, that their stocks have continually fallen over the past year, that they don’t have the money to build the proposed mill, and that they are a penny company, which means their company isn’t worth much.

It was then said, “Then we don’t have anything to worry about.” I replied, “If they get the permits to build the proposed mill they could sell the property and permits to another uranium company which might want to use it differently. What if they want to bring in highly radioactive waste materials from other areas and the Paradox Valley becomes an even worse toxic radioactive materials waste dump?”

After the meeting was over many people stayed in groups chatting about the proposed mill, fruit we’re canning, how our gardens are growing, etc. In my studies of other mills, I have read one of the worst social impacts when the nuclear industry becomes active in an area is how it divides a community. It was wonderful to see Paradox Valley residents respect people with differing opinions and listen to each other and learn from our differences. I love Paradox and I hope it stays the nice place to live it has been for me for 16 years.
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September 17, 2008
Very good and balanced article, Ruth. I sure hope Paradoxfolk do not 'divide' over this issue as it is a lovely place in the world and the people are gracious.

And thank you for pointing out the downside of being downwind of this operation. Indeed, Naturita, Nucla, Redvale, Norwood, Placerville, Sawpit, and Telluride/Ophir should be concerned as well. We sure do see those dust storms over here. I wipe them off my window sills every Spring and Fall.

Look at how volatile markets are presently under the sway of uncertain supply/demand and speculation. Can Energy Fuels guarantee employment for at least a generation? What will happen if uranium prices drop (like oil prices currently) while inflation takes over? Will EF stick with Paradox/Naturita or fold up and leave them in the lurch?

One issue I did not see covered is the transport issue. The milled yellowcake needs to be transported from the mill in Paradox to a shipping point, probably a railhead like GJ. Look at those roads; either Unaweep or San Miguel Canyon. It will be just a matter of time before a load of yellowcake ends up in the Delores headed for the Colorado and no one will be able to do anything about it. That's when the downstream states start raising hell and the Feds step in.

And if it's transported via Unaweep, please take down those Scenic Byway signs. They won't be telling the truth anymore with an ore truck every 20 miles.