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

Release Date: 12/03/2010
Contact Information: Valois Shea, 303-312-6276; Richard Mylott, 303-312-6654

Permit conditions will ensure protection of groundwater at Centennial uranium site

(Denver, Colorado – December 3, 2010) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued an injection well permit to Powertech, (USA) Inc. that will enable the company to re-inject groundwater from an aquifer pump test at the proposed Centennial uranium site in Weld County, Colorado. This Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class V permit does not allow any uranium recovery activity at the site. The permitted activity is limited solely to the re-injection of aquifer pump test water, and will be subject to several conditions that ensure the protection of groundwater resources.

“EPA is issuing this permit after an extensive, year-long public process and the consideration of all relevant technical data,” said Steve Tuber, EPA’s assistant regional administrator in Denver. “The permit places specific, rigorous conditions on the re-injection of groundwater that will be temporarily withdrawn from the Upper Fox Hills formation during an aquifer pump test. The safeguards associated with this permit, some of which are the result of public comments, will ensure that groundwater in formations below the Centennial site is protected.”

As part of the aquifer pump test, Powertech will remove approximately 43,000 gallons of groundwater from a sandstone aquifer within the Fox Hills formation. This groundwater will be placed in surface holding tanks for a period of time then re-injected, unaltered, into the same aquifer. The pump test will provide information about hydrogeology at the Centennial site, including data about the integrity of confining zones surrounding the injection area, which will 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 (CDRMS).

This UIC Class V permit is required for the groundwater re-injection associated with the aquifer pump test. EPA will review preliminary pump test results to assess the integrity of the upper and lower confining zones before allowing the re-injection to occur. Permit conditions designed to protect groundwater include requirements for protective well construction standards and mechanical integrity testing; the maintenance of zero injection pressure at the well head; and the analysis of water quality prior to the pump test and again before re-injection, to ensure that water quality has not changed.

Additional conditions associated with the pump test require providing access for EPA and CDRMS staff; the deployment of nearby monitoring wells; the testing of holding tanks; and an alternate water disposal plan should an EPA assessment of the confining zone show that re-injection is not protective of groundwater resources.

This UIC Class V permit is limited to groundwater re-injection associated with the aquifer pump test. It 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 permit(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.

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.

The Class V UIC final permit and 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/