City Council wants to avoid a dump at Cotter
The Daily Record News Group
City Council members range from outright dislike of the Cotter Corp.
to viewing it as a troubled industry that was once a prized economic
benefit when in started in 1958.
have made a strong statement that we don't want to be a toxic waste
dump," Mayor H.B. Benny Johnson said. "However, we are
council approved a resolution in March opposing shipments of low-level
radioactive soil from the Maywood Superfund site in New Jersey and
supporting Gov. Bill Owens order to stop or limit the shipments.
The intent was to seek the delay of shipments from New Jersey so
that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment could
study the materials and determine the impact on the safety of the
the mayor, Johnson said he has to be neutral. But as a citizen,
he believes the health department has the responsibility to make
sure Cotter is not a health hazard to its neighbors.
do put out a dangerous product," he said. "As long as
the health department monitors them, I am for live and let live."
said the materials that Cotter wants to ship to the mill don't concern
him. Besides the Maywood materials, Cotter also wants to receive
radioactive materials from the Li Tungsten Superfund site in New
York and has received two shipments of waste from Oklahoma.
am not concerned about that, because what I call a toxic material,
something that is extremely hazardous, is placed in double barrels,"
said based on what he understands, the Maywood and Li Tungsten materials
are not toxic wastes. "This is more or less what Cotter had
there before," he said.
is like the prisons," said Johnson, who is a retired state
prison warden. "People have this fear because they don't know."
needs to educate the public about the operation, he said.
don't have a fear of Cotter, but it is a real fear for some people,"
the city council has issued a resolution of concern about Cotter
becoming a toxic or nuclear waste dump, the city has limitations
on what it can do because Cotter is outside city limits, he said.
city supplies water to Cotter at a reduced rate of 48 cents per
1,000 gallons, according to city records. The city also has a contract
to supply up to 18 percent of the city's current average daily water
supply to Cotter, but Cotter doesn't have the capability of drawing
that much water, said Steve Rabe, city administrator.
officials agreed to supply water to Cotter and the Shadow Mountain
Golf Course years ago because Cotter was providing jobs and spending
money in the community, Johnson said. The water contract with Cotter
was renewed recently by the present city council.
and the golf course got a good contract," he said.
contract with Cotter runs until about 2009, and the city can't break
it legally, Johnson said.
Bill Jackson, who has been a Cañon City resident for 39 years,
said he feels Cotter has done as good a job as it can under the
far as I can tell, they operate under government regulations,"
he said. "I suspect it is difficult to stay in compliance knowing
how government works.
think they have been a pretty good neighbor, considering the type
of business they are in," said Jackson, who is a retired power
company customer service manager. "I think they have been taken
to task a little bit hard.
don't understand radioactivity and the things it can accomplish.
We forget that the atomic bomb ended World War II and saved many,
many lives as far as our service people went."
the community doesn't want to be known as a waste dump, he said.
Mike Near, who has said in the past that he will stand in the road
to stop shipments to Cotter, is the most adamant in opposition.
am really concerned about the health and safety of the community,"
said Near, who is an elementary school teacher. "I don't believe
that the people of Cañon City have a lot of trust in Cotter
based on what has happened so far."
said he doesn't want to see people lose jobs, but a lot of people
have suffered from health problems in Lincoln Park.
Cotter operates under its uranium ore processing license, that is
one thing, he said. But the company doesn't have a license to become
a nuclear waste dump.
also praised the members of Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste
for their efforts to educate the public.
David Russell said he has been frustrated in his attempts to learn
more about Cotter and its impact on the community. However, after
going to Denver and talking to officials, he said he came away with
little or no real answers.
they are doing this in a safe way, then they should continue,"
Russell said. "But I never got any clear answers."
for the city's ability to control Cotter, it is outside city jurisdiction,
he said. Even the railroad and highways leading through the city
by which Cotter can ship materials are controlled by federal agencies,
many citizens here, I have many questions and concerns," Russell
Ann Swim is opposed to Cotter's efforts to bring in waste from other
am against Cotter becoming a toxic dump," Councilwoman Ann
Swim said. Because the city doesn't have control over Cotter, Swim
said she has not become as informed about the company as she would
like. The council had planned to take a tour of the mill, but the
tour hasn't taken place yet.
think they have been lax in the past and not followed all the rules,"
she said of Cotter. "I think the state needs to do a little
more looking at things for the citizens."
Barbara Smith said she has not taken a stand on the issue yet.
is really a tough situation," Smith said. "I came to the
community in 1995, and I am trying hard to learn the facts."
said she has attended some of the public meetings and CCAT meetings.
are very complicated," Smith said of the Cotter issues. "I
really have empathy with both CCAT and Cotter."
Gerald Gill said he is worried about the materials being brought
to Fremont County by Cotter.
have mixed feelings," he said. "I don't want this stuff
coming into our town.
are a lot of places that it can go to in Nevada or Utah. I don't
understand why they don't send it there other than Cotter needs
to make money."
said the council's role is limited. It needs to know what is going
on, but it doesn't have regulatory authority.
Gunkel, who was appointed to the council in July, said he is torn
between the two sides because he has friends who work at Cotter.
think it is a tough call," said the Cañon City High
School teacher and golf coach. "I know a lot of people who
work at Cotter and they have a right to make a living.
the other hand, I don't want us to have New Jersey's waste."
concerns him is that Cotter has violated employee safety regulations.
"If they can't do their job correctly, that is a whole different
story," Gunkel said.