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Parents Against the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill

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As mothers and fathers in the Telluride region, we are adamantly opposed to the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill. We are deeply concerned about the potential environmental and human health impacts of the mill on ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. We have learned from several scientists, including Professor Mark Williams and Jamie Holmes from Stratus Consulting that the communities of Telluride, Mountain Village, and Ophir are at serious risk of radiological contamination from the mill and surrounding mines. Following are our concerns:

The mill could have serious impacts on our air quality and drinking water. Air flows directly from Paradox Valley to Telluride's San Juan Mountains. SW Colorado contains higher than average levels of radon due to the uranium deposits here and our high altitude sun exposure. The rates of radioactive illnesses such as cancer, MS and infertility are higher here than in other places in the US. If uranium is extracted from the earth, stockpiled, transported and milled common sense tells us that there will be more radioactive exposure to regional residents from the earth, air and water. This region is a windy place. Air flow patterns tell us that particles will be picked up in Paradox Valley during wind events and deposited in the snow pack and surface water supplies which is where Telluride, Ophir and MV get our municipal water. 

The proposed mill requires 300 gallons of water per minute. SW Colorado has seen decreasing water supplies in recent years and scientists project that the Colorado River and its tributaries will face extreme shortages in years to come. The San Miguel River flows into the Dolores River, which flows into the Colorado River. To process 1000 tons/day the mill will require 300 gallons of water/minute. Energy Fuels has filed for water rights from 3 on site wells to partially provide the water. These wells are in an aquifer connected to the Dolores River. Energy Fuels has stated that they will transport the rest of the water needed from the San Miguel River over 14 miles away. This is a very poor use of our already over-tapped rivers and other water resources.

The proposed mill’s tailing ponds will be lined with unproven liners.  Only recently have liners been required for tailings ponds and all the liners that have been installed have leaked eventually. The liner Energy Fuels has proposed has not yet been tested. We know from the geology under the site that if/when this liner leaks it will flow directly to the Dolores River. This means radioactive waste will flow directly into the rivers down below us wreaking havoc on human and animal populations. The radioactive life of uranium is 4.47 billion years. This isn’t a problem if the uranium is locked in rock. It is a big problem once it is released into rivers and lakes and oceans where it doesn’t belong.

We realize that the West End of San Miguel and Montrose County’s are in dire need of jobs and residents argue that the mill would be a significant generator of employment. Energy Fuels claims it will create 85 new jobs from this mill, however, consider the following:

Energy Fuels estimates that the mill will have a 40-year life span. We do not feel that the lifetimes of potential impacts to human, economic, and environmental health is worth 85 jobs for such a relatively short period of time. Instead we would like to see the region and the State of Colorado work together to develop the known solar opportunities in the area to create jobs and capitalize on the approximately 300 days of sun per year. In this case, everyone would win—people who need jobs, the local economy, the government, the environment, clean energy and future generations. 

In closing, as parents in the Telluride Region and beyond we ask that in your role of protector of Colorado’s public health and the environment you consider ALL of the potential impacts from this proposed mill and resulting mines in SW Colorado. We are deeply concerned that you are currently establishing justification for an approval of the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill as opposed to seeking and considering all of the scientific and economic evidence that is available. An approval of this uranium mill in our region would be a short-sighted decision that could have extremely long-term, devastating impacts on our health, our children’s health, and that of local wildlife in one of the most biodiverse areas of Colorado and the country. 

It is time for humanity to start employing the science and technology we currently have to live sustainably versus continuously making such short-sighted, purely economically-driven decisions—particularly when the medium-term economics don’t make sense. Please deny the Piñon Ridge Uranium Mill—for all of us, but particularly for our children and their children. 


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