Passionate Opinions Voiced at Uranium Mill Hearing
KREX News Room
NUCLA, Colo.- Dozens of Western Slope residents were in Nucla on Monday to provide their opinions on whether or not a uranium mill should be built in the Paradox Valley.
The company looking to build the mill, Energy Fuels, was granted a license in 2011 to do so; however, several parties have filed a lawsuit to stop it.
In a court ruling issued June 13, Denver District Judge John McMullen found that the state had conducted an unlawful review process when it granted Energy Fuels a radioactive materials license and denied the public its right to a formal, adjudicatory hearing.
One woman quoted the Navajos as she expressed her opposition to the Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill, saying the yellow monster should not be taken out of the ground. She also added, "A rumor that there's radiated dust on the east slopes would turn, in my opinion, Telluride, Rico, Placerville and Ridgway into ghost towns."
Other folks agreed. Janet Johnson, who's lived in Grand Junction her entire life, said, "When we can look back at what happened, patterns of cancer, patterns of birth defects in all the mill towns."
However, the overwhelming majority of residents who would live just miles away from the mill want to see it built.
Naturita resident Bob Roberts said, "The grocery stores, the restaurants … everyone will benefit from having the influx of people."
Many oppose the mill because of the past.
"We felt that we were very important to the world because of the Cold War effort we were making. What we've learned from that is that it actually had a lot of deadly repercussions," said Johnson.
Some also said they believe the Canadian company building it, Energy Fuels, doesn't have locals' best interests in mind.
"I do feel certain statements have been made that are not representative of the actual science, and I don't think a public can make an informed decision without being fully educated on those issues."
However, locals and those in favor of it say they want growth for the nearby communities.
"Please approve this mill and let this valley get back to work," said one man who spoke at the meeting.
Dianna Reams, the president of the Nucla-Naturita Chamber of Commerce, is in favor of the mill. She said it will "allow us to improve our housing, improve our services. The ease and ability to just live here without it being so difficult. Currently, we're 100 miles from a pair of socks."
Many left town when the old uranium mills went out of business.
Current residents believe a new mill with modern regulations could build the community back up.
Reams said, "We have the ability to work and live with the potential risks and know how to minimize them given our history."
The ultimate decision will be in the hands of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Community involvement manager for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Warren Smith, said, "What are the local wind patterns, what is the local traffic pattern, what kind of cell phone coverage and emergency services are there?"
In the upcoming months decision makers will have hundreds of comments to sift through before deciding whether or not to keep the uranium in the ground or take it out.
They have until April to make the decision. They will either deny the license, approve it or approve it with conditions.