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Last Chance for Last Chance

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.

17 Responses to “Last Chance for Last Chance”

  1. Riste Capps
    July 3rd, 2005 22:18
    1

    Before you go blogging stuff, you really should get educated. So far, the Rocky Mountain Low Level Rad Waste Board has approved Last Chance / Deer Trail as a regional facility. Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment has not even approved Clean Harbors’ radioactive materials license - that process has slowed to a crawl. NO SHIPMENTS of RAD waste are supposed to go to Deer Trail before the state approves the license.
    To read more - read the Commerce City Beacon. There are articles dating back to March 9 on this story.

  2. Brian Depew
    July 4th, 2005 08:11
    2

    Before you go criticizing my entry you really should read it more carefully.

    I wrote in the original post, “The site still has to receive approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but approval is expected.” I am glad to hear you report that this approval process “has slowed to a crawl,” but I did not imply in anyway that it was not required in the original post. Nor did I imply that shipments had already begun.

    I also noted that the facility will begin by accepting regional radioactive waste, but I also noted that company officials hope to ultimately open the facility to a tri-state region, and that their approval from the Rocky Mountain Low-Level Radioactive Waste Board was good for a tri-state region. This is contrary to what you claimed in your comment, and can also be sourced from the Commerce City Beacon which you suggested as a source.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, and feel free to come back again.

  3. Riste Capps
    July 30th, 2005 12:24
    3

    OOPS!!!
    Forgot to mention that the Clean Harbors Deer Trail dump near Last Chance is actually in Adams County not Washington County as stated in your article. Also know that the Adams County Commissioners have hired an attorney to represent them in this matter as when they approved the hazardous waste dump back in the 1980s, they stipulated NO RAD!

  4. Riste Capps
    August 23rd, 2005 19:02
    4

    Dump update….
    Guess what? In addition to regular hazardous waste renewal and wanting to bring in NORM, TENORM and limited low level type radioactive waste, Clean Harbors has notified the surrounding community that they want to receive PCBs….co-mingling all in the same cell.

    The big question is, can this be done safely?
    CDPHE is asking lots of questions.

  5. Riste Capps
    August 31st, 2005 19:22
    5

    State health department issued draft haz waste renewal permit and draft radioactive materials license for Deer Trail dump.

    Public comment is open until October 11, 2005. Public hearing at Woodlin School from 6-9 pm.

  6. Riste Capps
    August 31st, 2005 19:23
    6

    Public Hearing on haz permit and rad license September 26 at Woodlin School from 6-9 pm.

  7. TreeFrog
    February 21st, 2006 22:17
    7

    Awesome blog you have. I enjoyed reading it this evening.
    Peace
    TreeFrog

  8. Riste Capps
    April 14th, 2006 07:09
    8

    Deer Trail dump radioactive waste stream escalating
    By Riste Capps
    Appears on IntraDenver in: Commerce City
    4/12/2006
    Before the courts have decided whether radioactive waste and PCB’s without limit can be accepted for disposal at the Clean Harbors Deer Trail hazardous waste facility near Last Chance, the state health department wants to amend the regional designation.
    When the Deer Trail dump was originally permitted last year by the Rocky Mountain Low Level Radioactive Waste Board (RMLLRWB) as a regional low level facility, the state maintained this designation was needed to dispose of radium from the Denver streets project. Clean Harbors claimed that bringing the Denver radium to Deer Trail, rather than sending it to the U.S. Ecology dump in Idaho, would save taxpayers over a million dollars.
    In presenting their plan to the public last year, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Clean Harbors minimized the regional designation claiming that only Denver radium-like waste would be accepted from the Rocky Mountain compact states – New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado. Now the state wants the RMLLRWB to change the permit designation to what the state’s radioactive materials license allows which is NORM (Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material) and TENORM (Technologically Enhanced Natural Occurring Radioactive Material) with an activity level of 2,000 picocuries per gram, and radium 400 picocuries per gram.
    This change would allow waste meeting these criteria from compact states, and, with approval from the RMLLRWB, waste of this nature from all over the country, and the world, to be disposed at Deer Trail.
    According to Clean Harbors CEO Alan McKim, Clean Harbors is looking at ways to modify permits at Deer Trail, and their other facilities, to “meet the market”. Currently, there is a huge market in FUSRAP (Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program).
    FUSRAP is known as pre 1978 radioactive waste generated from the nation’s early atomic energy program. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, in October 1997, Congress transferred the management of this program from the Department of Energy to the Corps of Engineers. Through this program, the Corps addresses the environmental remediation of certain sites once used by DOE’s predecessor agencies, the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Energy Commission. The waste at FUSRAP sites consists mainly of low levels of uranium, thorium and radium, along with some mixed wastes, which include both hazardous and radioactive wastes. Cleanup at 29 sites has been completed. Another 21 sites await cleanup. These sites are located in 14 states across the country. Upon completion of remedial activities, these sites are transferred to DOE for long-term stewardship activities.
    While Clean Harbors local representatives are telling the community that they will not be bringing in FUSRAP waste, the company’s CEO is telling it’s stockholders that they are courting this market and basing increases in projected revenues, and profits, on the FUSRAP market.
    The farmers and ranchers who live around the dump have thought all along that the state and Clean Harbors have bigger plans in mind. In the 1980’s when the hazardous waste certificate of designation was issued by Adams County, the community was promised by the county and the state that radioactive waste and PCB’s above 50 parts per billion would never be allowed at this dump which sits in the middle of farm and ranch country on the eastern Colorado plains.
    Despite objections from Adams County Commissioners, the surrounding community and Washington County, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment approved a radioactive materials license for Deer Trail and added PCB’s without limit and radioactive waste to the toxic inventory allowed under their hazardous waste permit.
    Adams County Commissioners hired a special outside attorney, Howard Kennison, to represent them in this matter. Kennison filed appeals in
    Denver and Adams County district courts objecting to the state approved changes and outlining what he sees as violations of environmental laws of the land. The state attorney general’s office filed motions to dismiss both appeals based on their belief that counties cannot sue the state. District court judges will review the cases and decide whether Adams County’s appeal has merit to move forward into a full blown lawsuit.
    Meanwhile, the farmers and ranchers around the Deer Trail dump who were told by the state health department and Clean Harbors that they want to be able to accept sewer sludge and Denver radium, now find their way of life threatened by a regional low level radioactive waste facility that will change their neighborhood forever.
    The Rocky Mountain Low Level Radioactive Waste Board will hold a public meeting to discuss the state’s request to amend the regional facility designation at the Denver Airport Marriot on May 9 at 10 a.m.

  9. been there
    August 12th, 2006 00:41
    9

    There are more problems at this site then you can imagine

  10. Rsite Capps
    April 19th, 2007 08:52
    10

    Hi!

    Seems like history repeats itself, even at the dump. For several years, this dump was out of compliance. Clean Harbors spent a lot of money bringing it into compliance. Their sr vp of compliance and regulatory affairs promised the community they would run a clean operation. Then with the first load of radioactive waste that arrived Dec 18, 2006, they’ve already received violations from the state health department for not following proper procedures in surveying the truck that brought this load to the dump and then for not properly training an employee. Adams County also told CH they were in violation of the certificate of designation that prohibits the disposal of radioactive waste. GO FIGURE!!

    Would be interested in hearing more about the problems at this site from previous blogger…

  11. been there
    August 31st, 2007 19:48
    11

    “Clean Harbors spent a lot of money bringing it into compliance”
    It would be intersting to know what was brought into compliance.

    Don’t know enough abouth the new stream of waste, to know if they are out of compliance.

    A question that I would like to know the answer to, is how do they keep waste that may leak or seep out of the building that they mix the waste in from getting into the surronding soils or ground water.

    If you can get a answer to this question, I bet I came prove it false, if you would like to privatly e-mail let me know.

  12. been there
    August 31st, 2007 19:51
    12

    “Clean Harbors spent a lot of money bringing it into compliance”
    It would be intersting to know what was brought into compliance.

    Don’t know enough abouth the new stream of waste, to know if they are out of compliance.

    A question that I would like to know the answer to, is how do they keep waste that may leak or seep out of the building that they mix the waste in from getting into the surronding soils or ground water.

    If you can get a answer to this question, I bet I came prove it false, if you would like to privately e-mail let me know.

  13. Anonymous
    April 9th, 2008 14:11
    13

    As the dump turns…
    Does a county have the standing to challenge a decision made by the state?
    On St. Patrick’s Day, the Colorado Supreme Court decided to accept Adams County’s petition for review of the county’s lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that has been working its way through the courts for the past few years.
    Over 20 years ago, the Adams County Commissioners approved the Deer Trail hazardous waste disposal facility near Last Chance on the condition that certain waste streams, including radioactive waste and PCB’s above 50 ppm, be prohibited. Over the years, the Deer Trail dump has had many different owners. In 2004, Clean Harbors became the owner. The Adams County Commissioners transferred the Certificate of Designation to Clean Harbors with the condition that these same waste streams not be allowed.
    In 2005, the state health department renewed the hazardous waste permit for Deer Trail approving PCB’s. They also issued a radioactive materials license.
    The farmers and ranchers who live around the dump strongly objected and so did the county commissioners who hired an outside attorney, Howard Kenison. Kenison filed 2 lawsuits against the state health department taking them to task for ignoring the county’s authority over the dump, side-stepping the laws of the land and streamlining the process of approving the license and renewing the permit. The state bypassed the county again when it approved Deer Trail as a Regional Low Level Radioactive Waste facility saying county approval was not needed.
    Both the District Court and Colorado Appellate Court dismissed both complaints stating a county does not have the standing to sue the state.
    But on March 17, the State Supreme Court announced they will review both cases and the question whether Adams County has standing to challenge CDPHE’s decision to issue a radioactive materials license and approve a regional radioactive waste facility without approval from the county.
    Kenison said he is looking forward to “a day in court with the state”.
    The neighbors who live around the dump hope the substance of these cases can be heard. They feel counties need to be able to hold the state’s feet to the fire when it runs amuck.
    Meanwhile, Adams County lawsuit against Clean Harbors claiming they have violated their certificate of designation, is set for trial on July 21st. In this lawsuit, the county is requesting a permanent injunction against radioactive waste at Deer Trail as well as removal of the radioactive waste that has already been deposited there.

    Riste @ the Beacon

  14. wow
    December 3rd, 2008 21:35
    14

    As the dump turns….Adams County slammed again in District Court decision
    By Riste Capps
    Appears on IntraDenver in: Commerce City
    12/3/2008

    The latest round of Adams County’s quest to keep radioactive waste out of the Clean Harbors Deer Trail facility was thwarted by Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree. On November 14, he ruled against the county in its complaint against Clean Harbors, alleging they have violated the CD by accepting radioactive waste.

    In 1987, Adams County granted a CD (Certificate of Designation) to establish a hazardous waste facility at Deer Trail in eastern Adams County near Last Chance. The CD prohibited, among other things, the disposal of radioactive waste and PCBs (Polychlorinated Byphenyls) above 50 ppm (parts per million).

    In 2005, the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) approved a radioactive materials license for Deer Trail and added PCBs above 50 ppm to the hazardous waste stream allowed under the facility’s hazardous waste permit. These changes were made under the authority of the state health department without specific approval from Adams County.

    Before the radioactive materials license was approved, the state health department, working with the Rocky Mountain Low Level Radioactive Waste Board, had Deer Trail designated a regional low level radioactive waste facility for the Rocky Mountain Compact states - Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

    Objecting to being by-passed in all of these decisions, Adams County sued Clean Harbors for violating its CD. The state health department joined Clean Harbors as a defendant.

    According to the summary judgment for this lawsuit, Adams County argued that Clean Harbors has accepted low level radioactive waste for disposal at Deer Trail without first obtaining a CD from the county for such disposal. Further, the county argued Clean Harbors operated the facility with a CD that specifically prohibits disposal of radioactive materials in violation of the Solid Waste Act.

    Clean Harbors and the state’s response, as outlined in the summary judgment, maintains state statutes are to be enforced by the Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste Commission. They argued, Colorado law does not require a different CD before a facility can be designated as a low level radioactive waste facility and that its current CD with the county is sufficient. Finally, they maintain the county’s authority over the facility is pre-empted by the state legislature.

    In the end, Judge Crabtree’s analysis and decision favored Clean Harbors supported by the state health department. It reads like the motion prepared by Clean Harbors’ lawyers.

    First, Crabtree noted, in order for Clean Harbors to be in violation of the Hazardous Waste Act or county regulations, Adams County must demonstrate that the state health department has determined there were substantial changes that required Clean Harbors to obtain a new CD, amend the existing CD or otherwise seek the county’s approval before Deer Trail could receive radioactive waste or PCBs without limit.

    The Judge said there was no violation because the statutes and regulations provide general types of waste to be accepted or rejected at the facility. He said, “It does not give the county the right to specify the types or categories of waste accepted at the facility and does not give the county the right to approve changes other than substantial changes.”

    Crabtree points out when Adams County Commissioners transferred the CD to Clean Harbors, the 2004 CD does not reference the 2004 Resolution. County records show the CD and Resolution were adopted by the same commissioners on the same day during the same session. What the Judge does not discuss is the 2004 Resolution does reference the original 1987 CD that prohibits radioactive waste and higher level PCBs. According to the Judge, “The Resolution is merely a mechanism through which the county approves the CD. Its terms do not establish the wastes which may be accepted at the facility.”

    The Judge determined the state health department, not Adams County, has sole authority to determine what constitutes a substantial change. He said he does not think the state health department approving a radioactive materials license, making Deer Trail a regional low level radioactive waste facility and allowing PCBs without limit constitute a substantial change because the state health department does not think these changes are substantial. He said, “Adams County has no authority to review and approve the acceptance of subject materials, the license, or designation of the facility by the Rocky Mountain Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact Board.”

    In his ruling, Crabtree says the facts show radioactive materials can not be considered a substantial change. He points out the Hazardous Waste Permit for Deer Trail renewed in 1998 did allow radioactive materials at the state’s discretion. The original permit wording prohibiting radioactive materials was amended with “or as approved by the state health department”. Although this change conflicts with the stated intent of the commissioners, the Judge decided, “In 2002, the Adams County Commissioners were given an opportunity to review and approve this provision, and approved it.”

    On the county’s claim that Clean Harbors violated the Solid Waste Act, Crabtree agreed this was an issue for the Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission.

    On the county’s claim that Clean Harbors violated the Low Level Act by designation of Deer Trail as a regional low level radioactive waste facility without the county’s approval, Crabtree said, the Low Level Act states: “any person who proposes to operate a facility shall first apply….for a certificate of designation to the board of county commissioners of the county in which the proposed facility site is located.”

    However, he ruled the company did not need to get a CD from the county because they already had a CD supported by the change in wording in the 1998 Hazardous Waste Permit allowing radioactive waste as approved by the state health department.

    On the county’s claim that Clean Harbors is operating without an agreement on the payment of fees, Crabtree said the company already pays Adams County fees as required by state statutes.

    The Judge determined, “There is no requirement that Clean Harbors obtain a separate or additional agreement for fees under the state Low Level Act when it already has an agreement to pay maximum amount of fees allowed under the state Hazardous Waste Act.

    Adams County’s special attorney Howard Kenison of Lindquist & Vennum said, “The commissioners remain strongly opposed to the disposal of radioactive waste in Adams County and we will vigorously pursue an appeal of the court’s opinion on their behalf.”

    This is one of several lawsuits involving the dump near Last Chance.

    Adams County’s original lawsuit against the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for approving a radioactive materials license for Deer Trail without the county’s approval has made its way to the Colorado State Supreme Court. Lower courts have ruled a county does not have the standing to sue the state because the state is a superior agency. Arguments before the court were heard yesterday afternoon on this issue and a decision will be forthcoming.

    The substance of Adams County’s suit has never been heard. As many interested parties have predicted, this has become a test case for county’s land use rights vs. state authority. If a county’s wishes are ignored by the state, and a county believes the state has cherry picked and side-stepped the laws of the land and become a marketing agent for a private corporation, and its day in court is denied, who is to hold the state’s feet to the fire?

  15. Riste Capps
    April 3rd, 2010 20:15
    15

    As the Dump Turns….

    The Colorado Supreme Court found in Adams County’s favor that yes so, ah ha, the county can sue the state health department so, word is, ADCO, CDPHE and Clean Harbors are negotiating at some undisclosed location on an unknown date and time….hope to hear soon what the heck is going to happen…

    Cheers to All!

  16. Riste Capps
    April 3rd, 2010 20:21
    16

    Will ADCO make the State make Clean Harbors dig out the Denver radium and a few other low level radioactive disposed there? Will ADCO tell CHDT & CDPHE they can leave what radioactive waste is already there, there, but no more? Or, will Deer Trail remain a low level radioactive waste dipository?

  17. maria smith
    May 13th, 2011 03:58
    17

    i like your very useful and informative post regarding last chance of Nuclear waste—coming soon to a rural area near you. i like to share this link.
    thanks!!!!

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