POSITION IN BRIEF:

Support for adequate safeguards in the production, transportation, use, treatment, disposal and storage of hazardous and radioactive materials. (Regarding disposal and storage: the intent is to locate and/or maintain a suitable site or sites for the disposal and storage of hazardous and radioactive materials, not to totally prohibit the location of sites in Colorado.)

POSITION: (Concurrence with LWVUS position, 1981)

To ensure safe management of hazardous and radioactive materials:

  • No site shall be located in natural hazard areas such as flood plains, areas with high seismic or volcanic activity, areas of unstable geology, ice or snow formations, or areas subject to extensive damage from winds.
  • There should be an examination of alternative sites and methods of production, transportation, use, treatment, disposal and storage. Monitoring for contamination of ground and surface water, soils and air are of the utmost importance.
  • Containers should be designed to prevent leakage of material and should be regularly inspected for possible leakage.
  • Population density should be considered in the siting process.
  • Recycling, reuse and reduction of hazardous wastes should be emphasized.

Hazardous and radioactive materials activities should not take place in areas of critical concern which include:

  • Drinking water supply sources such as reservoirs (and other storage facilities) and sole source aquifers and watersheds.
  • Fragile land areas such as shorelines of rivers, lakes and streams, estuaries and bays, or wetlands.
  • Rare or valuable ecosystems or geologic formations, significant wildlife habitat, or unique scenic or historic areas.
  • Areas with significant renewable resource value, such as prime agricultural lands, aquifer or aquifer recharge areas, significant grazing and forest lands.

The decision making process should provide for:

  • Ample and effective public participation, including adequate funding for such participation.
  • Economic, social and environmental impact statements so that both decision-makers and the public have information on which to base a decision with consideration of secondary land use demands (roads, sewers, water, etc.) in addition to the actual size.
  • Site selection in conformance with any adopted comprehensive plan, such as an adopted county comprehensive plan.
  • Participation and review by all governmental levels to assure conformance with comprehensive plans at each level of government; and procedures for mediation of intergovernmental conflicts.

HISTORY

In 1979 LWVCO began a two-year study of hazardous materials. League studied the production, transportation, use, disposal and storage of hazardous materials in Colorado, with special emphasis on nuclear material and the impact of low-level radiation. The study included an overview of chemical and radiation sites, including Denver’s Lowry Landfill, Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant, Fort St. Vrain Nuclear Power Plant and the mining legacies of uranium milling and tailings.

In 1980 LWVUS issued “Criteria for Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Disposal or Storage Sites.” With a few additions these criteria formed the basis of a concurrence adopted in 1981 by LWVCO.

League members have been members in the “watchdog” role of the Governor’s Lowry Landfill Monitoring Committee and the Colorado Committee on Hazardous Wastes Regulation. In 1983 LWVCO successfully supported bills for: hazardous waste siting, local government designation of emergency response authorities, a mechanism to allow local governments to seek reimbursement for cost incurred from abandoned or spilled hazardous wastes, and penalties pertaining to radiation control. In 1985 LWVCO supported successful passage of a bill that provided for appropriations for Colorado’s share of funds for federal “Superfund” activities. A bill for community and employee access to information on hazardous materials failed. Since then federal legislation has allowed more access.

In 1987 a heavily amended bill addressing transportation of hazardous materials was passed. Over League’s objections, the state budget adopted that year included enormous cuts in funds for the Attorney General’s office, curtailing the ability of the state to prosecute illegal disposal of hazardous waste.

In 1989 LWVCO strongly supported successful legislation to regulate Underground Storage Tanks (UST) and clean up ones that were leaking (LUST).

With increased federal legislation, there have been minimal state bills since then. In 2010 a bill was passed for more oversight and reporting of radioactive materials coming into the state.