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Uranium Mill Tailings

Cleanup of former uranium mill sites in Colorado authorized by the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) program has been completed. This program facilitated the cleanup of 15 million cubic yards of uranium tailings at former uranium mill sites in nine Western Colorado communities. Because much of the cleanup is complete, the focus has shifted to primarily "Post -UMTRA issues," or the discovery of new uranium mill tailings material by private citizens, utility companies or local governments, and what to do about it.

 

 

The communities in Western Colorado where uranium mill tailings were cleaned up are: Durango, Grand Junction, Fruita, Palisade, Gunnison, Maybell, Naturita, Rifle and Slick Rock. In all cases except Maybell, this resulted in the relocation of the tailings to off-site engineered disposal cells; Maybell was encapsulated onsite. 15 million cubic yards of uranium tailings were removed to controlled disposal sites from the nine uranium mill sites and approximately 5,000 other contaminated properties. The disposal cells were constructed utilizing strict ground water, geologic and erosion criteria and are designed to encapsulate the material, reduce radon emanation, and prevent the movement of water through the material. The cells are designed to last for 200-1,000 years, are erosion resistant and located primarily away from populated areas. Final authorization for uranium mill tailings surface cleanup ended in 1998. These structures will continue to be monitored and maintained in the future by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

 

 
 

                                            SITE

 COUNTY

  Durango Bodo Canyon Disposal Site      

Map pdf file

Site Documents

La Plata

  Durango Processing Site #1   

Map pdf file

Site Documents

La Plata

  Durango Processing Site #2    

Map pdf file

Site Documents

La Plata

  Grand Junction Cheney Disposal Site

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Mesa

  Grand Junction Office Facility

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Mesa

  Grand Junction Processing Site       

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Mesa

  Gunnison Disposal Site

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Gunnison

  Gunnison Processing Site

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Gunnison

  Maybell Mill and Disposal Site     

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Moffat

  Naturita Disposal Site   

Map pdf file  

Site Documents

Montrose

  Naturita Processing Site #1     

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Montrose

  Naturita Processing Site #2      

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Montrose

  Rifle Estes Gulch Disposal Site 

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Garfield

  Rifle - Old Mill Site  

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Garfield

  Rifle - New Mill Site

Map pdf file

Site Documents

Garfield

  Slick Rock Burro Canyon Disposal Site

Map pdf file

Site Documetns

San Miguel

  Slick Rock NC Processing Site

Map pdf file

Site Documents

San Miguel

  Slick Rock UC Processing Site

Map pdf file

Site Documents

San Miguel

 

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Grand Junction Office is the repository for information on all properties remediated through the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action program - past and present. In addition, Department staff members are able to produce or update property records as the conditions change due to the excavation of uranium mill tailings material. The Grand Junction Office is located at:

 

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
222 South 6th Street, Rm. 232
Grand Junction, CO 81501
(970) 248-7164

 

The following staff members are available to assist you:

 

Mike Cosby - Project Manager - Grand Junction
970-248-7171
michael.cosby@state.co.us

 

Kate Elsberry - Program Assistant - Grand Junction 
970-248-7164
kathleen.elsberry@state.co.us

 

 

 


 

What about new material discovered during future excavations?

 

The Department has developed the Uranium Mill Tailings Management Plan for managing uranium mill tailings encountered during construction activities in Western Colorado. The plan provides guidance and outlines resources for building contractors, private citizens, utility companies and local governments when faced with newly discovered uranium mill tailings material. Experience has shown that as construction and demolition activities occur, new uranium mill tailings deposits will be discovered and disturbance of known deposits will occur. New construction within such deposits increases potential exposure to gamma radiation and radon gas and is therefore a long-term health concern.  

 

Some examples of uranium mill tailings use were: soil attenuation, concrete mix, bedding for concrete and utilities, stucco, and brick production. Despite widespread publicity, two clean-up programs extending over 25 years, and thousands of property investigations, uranium mill tailings remain in and around Western Colorado communities. It is suspected that up to one million cubic yards of tailings remain outside of the controlled disposal cells.

 

Uranium Mill Tailings Management Plan pdf file  

  

 

Summary of the plan's main elements:

 

The plan outlines the responsibilities of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Department of Energy, local governments, utility companies and private citizens in addressing newly discovered contamination. Each party has a responsibility in safely managing and disposing of newly discovered material, and for providing appropriate worker training.

 

The plan provides procedures for all aspects of excavation, transportation, unloading and decontamination of equipment and personnel using the philosophy of "as low as reasonably achievable" (ALARA). In addition, the Department will maintain, calibrate and provide radiological survey instruments to local governments and individual citizens as requested and as available. The Department will also provide training in the use of these instruments. Detailed information regarding radiological survey techniques recommended for surveying people, equipment and real property are provided through the links below:

 

The Department will provide excavation control for uranium mill tailings removals by private citizens and technical expertise to communities, local governments, or private citizens in identifying, handling and management of uranium mill tailings.

 

It is necessary to follow all applicable federal and state regulations that pertain to the transport of uranium mill tailings in disposing of the material, and detailed summaries are provided through the links listed below. In addition, guidance is provided for hauling procedures such as tarping and not overfilling to prevent dust or spillage. If a spill from the haul truck occurs, procedures are recommended for isolating the spill and preventing further dispersal. Traffic safety has priority over isolating or recovering the spill. Greater detail regarding excavation and transportation scenarios is included through the links below:

 

One of the primary benefits or resources offered by the post-Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action program to any party with a need to dispose of uranium tailings material is a disposal site. This disposal site is called the Interim Storage Facility (ISF) and is a temporary holding area for uranium mill tailings. The facility is owned by the City of Grand Junction and operated in coordination with the state health department. The facility is located at 2553 River Road, Grand Junction, Colorado. The Interim Storage Facility provides temporary, secure and safe storage for uranium mill tailings excavated during construction activities in Colorado communities. The tailings will be ultimately transported to the Cheney disposal cell south of Grand Junction, Colorado, for final disposal.

 

The facility is available for any person or entity needing to dispose of uranium mill tailings material free of charge, but an appointment or advance notice is required prior to arrival. Also, the city of Grand Junction requires a written and signed contract with other cities and agencies before they can use the Interim Storage Facility. Arrangements may be made through Mike Cosby or Kate Elsberry at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's Grand Junction Office. Also, parties disposing of material at the Interim Storage Facility will need to provide information regarding the origin of the material and other pertinent facts. The links below provide additional summaries of the requirements and procedures in place at the Interim Storage Facility:

 

The disposal cell for Mesa County, known as the Cheney disposal cell, will not be totally capped and closed for several years. Recognizing the need for long-term management and storage of the remaining uncontrolled tailings, the Cheney site will remain available for uranium mill tailings-related contaminated materials until 2023, or until the cell is filled to capacity. Depending on the size of the accumulated stockpile, the facility will probably be open one to two times a year during which time it will accept the material accumulated at the Interim Storage Facility (ISF) for final disposal. In order to save money, the Department of Energy will only open the long-term facility when the stockpile at the interim facility warrants it. The Department of Energy will continue to maintain, operate, and fund the Cheney cell. The Cheney cell is the only Uranium Mill Tailings Remediation Act site remaining open and available to receive uranium tailings since 1998.