Cautious support 
due waste proposal

The Mesa County commissioners’ decision to approve a private company’s plan for an expanded drilling-waste disposal site south of Whitewater may spark some opposition. However, the proposal and the location are reasonable ones, so long as appropriate measures are taken for environmental protection and to keep the site secure.

Alanco Energy Services hopes to create 12 holding ponds on 160 acres south of Whitewater and near U.S. Highway 50. The site would accept solid waste from oil and gas drilling throughout the Piceance Basin. That would include items such as drill cuttings and tank bottoms, according to the company’s application. It would also accept production water and naturally occurring radioactive waste, all of which would be stored in cells with impermeable barriers.

The site makes sense because it is near the Cheney Reservoir facility operated by the U.S. Department of Energy to store old uranium mill tailings and other low-level radioactive materials. Also, there are no residences nearby and no surface water. And, because of the lack of water and other amenities, development of the area for any other purpose is unlikely. And, allowing disposal of materials on the site would reduce the need to haul all of the wastes in question to a similar site in Utah.

Before the company can begin accepting wastes at the site, it must obtain a permit from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment. If that is forthcoming later this year, the county’s special use permit for Alanco’s operations will allow the company to expand its existing operations at the site.

We believe that makes sense, so long as the state and county carefully monitor Alanco’s operations to ensure it is meeting all of the requirements of its permits and adequately protecting water and air quality.


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