It will likely be several days before Utah officials complete their review information sent by Colorado concerning a proposed radium-disposal site 20 miles east of the Utah border.
In the meantime, the Colorado Health Department has issued a radioactive materials license to Umetco Minerals Corp. that would permit disposal of radium wastes at the proposed site near Uravan in Montrose County. Umetco now must win a contract from the Environmental Protection Agency for the removal of about 200,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials from a clean-up site in Denver.Larry F. Anderson, director of the Utah Bureau of Radiation Control, said officials hope the recently received information will satisfy concerns about the site. Utah officials are concerned because geologic conditions in the area do not appear to meet technical requirements to safely dispose of the materials. Officials are especially concerned by the presence of eroding sandstone and the proximity of the site to the San Miguel River, which empties into the Colorado River in Utah.
"Our reaction (to the Colorado decision) will depend on what we find in this information," Anderson said. "To this point we have not had any information relating specifically to this site."
Anderson said part of the information has been sent to the Utah Geologic Survey for review while his department looks specifically at the technical plans and safety concerns.
If the review fails to satisfy Utah concerns, then it will be up to Gov. Norm Bangerter to decide the state's future course of action. Anderson said the only real option would be a court suit to block use of the proposed site. "The governor would have to make that decision," Anderson said.
The EPA recently closed bidding on the waste removal project and has the bids under review. Officials there say it will be several months before a contract is awarded. That should give Utah officials time to complete their review and determine a course of action if needed.
Umetco is not guaranteed the EPA contract. A Utah firm, Envirocare, has indicated it is also seeking the contract. If Envirocare wins, the materials would be transported to Tooele County for disposal at an existing hazardous-waste site.
Anderson said Envirocare has all the necessary permits to handle the waste and will need no new authorizations from the state if it wins the contract.