The issue of where radium wastes from the Denver area will be dumped now is in the hands of the federal government, which has closed the bidding period for the controversial project.
It will be several months before the government reveals who will get the contract for the waste disposal. The contract was open for bids until Friday."We have to protect the propriety of the bidders until we can award a contract," said Shirley Allinson of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that has contracted with the Environmental Protection Agency to handle the bid process.
The bid process is another curl in the complicated state, federal and regional string of red tape that must be dealt with before a dump can be located near Uravan in the West End of Montrose County.
UMETCO Minerals of Grand Junction has proposed burying 250,000 cubic yards of radium waste on a shelf above the San Miguel River over the next two years.
UMETCO has received go-aheads for the project from the Colorado Department of Health and Montrose County and now must have the lowest bid before the EPA.
At least one other radioactive disposal company, Envirocare of Utah, has stated it also would bid on the radium waste.
An attorney for the EPA stated several weeks ago that 50 or 60 individuals had picked up bid packages on the disposal contract, but she did not know how many were seriously interested in returning bids.
She said some of those might be haulers that could take the materials out of state and others, such as Envirocare, already have radioactive dumps operating.
Allinson said because of federal regulations she cannot even reveal how many bidders returned bids by the 3 p.m. Friday deadline.
If UMETCO is awarded the EPA contract, it would need one more approval before it could put a dump in operation.
The Rocky Mountain Low Level Radioactive Waste Compact Board must OK the site as part of a four-state cleanup plan.
Officials of that board, which oversees uranium waste management in Colorado,Nevada, New Mexico and Wyoming, have said they will not approve any site until there is also a plan in place to dispose of medical and industrial low-level wastes from the four states. The site near Uravan once was proposed for both types of waste, but the low-level waste proj-ect was withdrawn several months ago, and the state has not come forward with another proposal.