Eva Knott 10:44 a.m., May 18
Fletcher Backer and Pot Foe Faces Uranium Cleanup Woes
At left: Cotter uranium mine
The cleanup of an old uranium processing mill in Colorado owned by La Jolla-based defense contractor General Atomics has hit yet another snag, with managers of the plant requesting that regulators allow them to stop testing a leaking radioactive waste pond for acidity because the work is too dangerous.
"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,' " said a July 25 letter to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, reported yesterday by the Denver Post.
According to the Post's account of the mill's latest difficulties, Cotter Corp, the mill's operator, "also notified department regulators that the company will pursue a lower-cost, passive approach to investigating a recently discovered plume of the industrial solvent trichloroethene.
"According to Cotter documents, TCE was detected in groundwater at levels exceeding federal health limits and has spread to at least one off-site well."
Neighboring residents have sued in federal court, alleging that the dismantling is being done without adequate planning and that regulators have failed to halt a plume of contaminants emanating from the mill site, which operated from 1958 to 1978, processing uranium for weapons and electric power plants.
Much of the cleanup is being paid for with federal funds.
Last June, Dave Rice detailed the Cotter mill's long and troubled history.
Two years ago, after General Atomics, run by San Diego's Linden and Neal Blue, bought Cotter, company officials told state regulators they planned to reopen the mill as early as 2014 to process as much as 500,000 tons of uranium each year, to be shipped by rail from a mine in New Mexico.
Linden Blue has long been a major player in San Diego politics, opposing medical marijuana and giving heavily to his favored candidates, including mayor Jerry Sanders, city attorney Jan Goldsmith, and councilwoman Lorie Zapf.
He's currently backing GOP Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher to succeed Sanders, contributing $500 on June 25.