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Last Chance waste dump OK appealed

Published January 27, 2006 at midnight

Adams County commissioners are asking two courts to reverse the state health department's decision to allow landfill operators in Last Chance to accept low-level radioactive waste.

The complaints, filed over the past week in Denver and Adams County district courts, say the department unlawfully usurped the county's authority to restrict the materials allowed in landfills within its jurisdiction.

"We believe the county's legitimate authority was bypassed by the department," Adams County lawyer Howard Kenison said.

The commissioners also have asked the courts to stay the eastern Adams County landfill's approvals while the courts consider the appeal.

The health department in December issued a license allowing Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. to accept materials such as radium waste removed from Denver's streets and leftover sludge from drinking water treatment that has been contaminated with radioactive materials such as uranium.

The department also renewed Clean Harbors' permit to continue to store, treat and dispose of hazardous waste at the facility for another five years.

The decision infuriated landowners near the landfill who worry that the approval eventually will open the door to allowing Clean Harbors to store higher levels of radioactive debris there.

The landfill is the only site in Colorado permitted to operate a hazardous waste disposal facility.

The state and Clean Harbors argued that disposing of the low-level radioactive waste at the landfill would be safe and would save taxpayers thousands of dollars by not having to ship it elsewhere.

Clean Harbors' Phillip Retallick, senior vice president of compliance and regulatory affairs, said the courts will reject the county's appeals because they do not raise substantial scientific concerns.

"These appeals raise a lot of what I would consider political and philosophical issues, but they do not address the rigorous technical process the department put Clean Harbors through," he said.

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