Thank you for your response and assistance.
I am writing again to request a public hearing in Ophir regarding the Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill application. As previously stated, the community of Ophir has concerns about the effects this uranium mill will have on our air and water quality.
The San Miguel County Department of Public Health and Environment, the U.S. Forest Service, the University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), the San Miguel Watershed Coalition, and the Town of Ophir have coordinated multiple years of study and resources to assessing the air quality in Ophir. The project has been managed by Professor Mark Williams at C.U. Results have consistently shown that Ophir's air and water (when airborne particulates enter the water via rain) are impacted by remote sources, e.g., high levels of nitrates, with no local source, appear in the water of Waterfall Canyon and have been traced to the Four Corners Power Plant.
Now, surface water from Waterfall Canyon is about to become Ophir's public water source. CDPHE is assisting the town in funding a new water system that converts our source to Waterfall's surface water. The proposed Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill is to be located west of Ophir in the direction of our prevailing winds. Hence, we have genuine concerns about contaminated dust from the Pinon Ridge Uranium Mill entering our public water source in Waterfall Canyon. In any spring season, you will find layers of red desert dust in the snowpack. It travels more than fifty miles.
In addition, the Town of Ophir and a long list of partners (the EPA, U.S.F.S., Trust for Public Lands, San Miguel Conservation Foundation, San Miguel Watershed Coalition, to name a few) have worked on numerous reclamation and conservation projects in the Ophir Valley, in order to eliminate sources of pollution to the San Miguel River, one of the last tributaries to the Colorado that is not dammed, and to protect Ophir's pristine high country, upon which many species of wildlife depend. We feel that developing a uranium mill nearby will negatively impact the abundant efforts and resources devoted to preserving and protecting this unique valley.
As taxpayers, we are paying to clean up uranium mine sites from the past uranium boom, such as the Graysill mine near Bolam Pass or the site at Vanadium in the San Miguel Canyon, west of Telluride, et al. The uranium industry has proven to be unsustainable, and its harms to public health are well documented, e.g. water contamination at Canon City and residents' lawsuits, or illnesses among former uranium miners of Nucla and Naturita or the Navajo Reservation. Ophir supports production of clean energy that does not risk public health or create nuclear waste. Our policies and funding reflect a commitment to using green energy and to conserving energy. As a community in which one-third of the population is children, we envision a healthy environment for tomorrow.
The Town of Ophir is making every effort to get informed about the proposed mill and application. You may have met Ophir's Town Manager, Randy Barnes, who attended the County Comissioners' meeting on Thursday, Feb. 18. We have circulated to residents the web address you provided with information on the Pinon Ridge Mill.
CDPHE's public hearing in Nucla was not attended by many from Ophir because a winter storm occurred on that evening. Similarly, a winter storm was forecast for Wednesday's meeting in Montrose. To ask citizens to drive three hours round trip in a snowstorm and after 10 p.m. at night seems unreasonable. Even a hearing in Telluride may not allow for Ophir residents to be heard because these hearings are heavily attended. Therefore, we urge CDPHE to grant Ophir an individual public hearing.
Thank you for your patience and consideration.
– Rhonda Claridge, Outgoing Town Clerk of Ophir