Nuclear waste—coming soon to a rural area near you.
Last Chance, Colorado (photo here) is an unincorporated town on the eastern plains of Colorado. Located in Washington County, population 5,000 (or a very low 1.95 people per square mile), Last Chance is so named because it was once the last chance to fuel up before a long drive across the barren plains of Colorado.
Yesterday Clean Harbors Environmental Services received clearance from the Rocky Mountain Low-Level Radioactive Waste Board to begin shipments of radioactive waste from a tri-state region to the Last Chance area. The site will begin by accepting waste from a Superfund site in the Denver area, but the company has expressed hope that they will ultimately be able to bring in waste from other areas and industries as well.
As I see it there are two ways that these sorts of waste dumps end up in rural areas.
In some cases these rural communities have suffered repeated economic setbacks. Out of desperation they court landfills, radio active waste, jails and other generally undesirable industries. This brings jobs to otherwise desolate communities and allows residents to pay the bills. The situation presents a double edged sward to say the least.
In other cases politicians from urban/affluent areas push these industries into low income and rural areas. Neither scenario is acceptable, but the latter seems worse.
This from the Associate Press.
Pam Whelden, a rancher who lives two miles north of the site and worries about water and soil contamination. She said residents were told when the dump opened in the 1980s that no radioactive waste would be stored there.
“It is a bogus and arrogant move by the Colorado Department of Health and Clean Harbors,” said Whelden, a member of Concerned Citizens of Eastern Colorado, which opposes the radioactive-waste permit.
She said state and Clean Harbors officials failed to take residents’ concerns into consideration.
“We have to become watchdogs in our area to keep us safe,” Whelden said. “They don’t listen.”
The site still has to receive approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but approval is expected.