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EPA issues new draft permit associated with aquifer pump test at Weld County (Colo.) uranium site

Release Date: 05/06/2011
Contact Information: Contact Information: Valois Shea, 303-312-6276; Richard Mylott, 303-312-6654

Permit specifies pressure requirement, clarifies issues noted in recent petitions

(Denver, Colo. – May 6, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has revised and reissued a permit authorizing Powertech, USA, to re-inject water as part of an aquifer pump test at the proposed Centennial uranium recovery site in Weld County, Colo. The new draft Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class V permit includes a specific pressure requirement for re-injection that was inadvertently not included in a permit EPA issued last December. EPA will hold a public hearing on the new draft permit on Monday, June 6, 2011, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Nunn Community Center in Nunn, Colo.

“This new draft permit addresses recent public comments and clarifies specific and rigorous measures that will ensure groundwater protection,” said Steve Tuber, EPA’s assistant regional administrator in Denver. “EPA remains committed to transparency and public involvement.”

EPA issued a final Class V UIC permit to Powertech in December 2010 following a year-long public review and comment process. EPA’s Environmental Appeals Board, an independent board that oversees EPA permitting actions, received two petitions for review of the final permit.

After reviewing the petitions, EPA decided to withdraw, revise and reissue the permit. This decision was based primarily on a petitioner’s concern noting that the final permit did not specify that Powertech is required to not exceed zero pressure at the wellhead when re-injecting water from the pump test. While EPA clearly stated its intent to require this condition, and Powertech agreed to comply, this requirement was inadvertently not included in the final permit. This requirement will help to ensure that the re-injection activity will not cause movement of water between aquifers beyond that which is naturally occurring.

EPA’s new draft permit specifically requires that Powertech not exceed a Maximum Allowable Injection Pressure (MAIP) of zero at the wellhead. The draft permit also includes language that clarifies additional concerns noted in the petitions and retains previously identified requirements designed to ensure groundwater protection.

This UIC Class V permit is limited to re-injecting ground water from an aquifer pump test. Specifically, the permit will enable Powertech to re-inject water taken from a sandstone aquifer within the Fox Hills formation during an aquifer pump test. This groundwater will be placed into holding tanks and returned, unaltered, back into the same aquifer. The test is designed to provide information about hydrogeology at the Centennial site and inform the feasibility of any future in-situ uranium extraction activities. Conditions of the aquifer pump test itself are subject to prior approval by the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety.

The State of Colorado is an Agreement State under the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's regulations for uranium in-situ leaching facilities and has authority for the licensing and operation of uranium extraction activities.

This UIC permit does not allow for the removal or processing of uranium or the disposal of waste water at the project site. Such activities would be subject to additional EPA and State approval(s). Any future UIC permit applications will be subject to an extensive public review process, including access to technical information, public meetings and comment periods consistent with applicable laws and regulations.
Related documents can be found at:
http://www.epa.gov/region8/water/uic/

EPA regulations under 40 CFR part 124 describe the public review process for UIC permitting actions. General information about the UIC program can be found at:
http://water.epa.gov/type/groundwater/uic/