The Ghosts of Valmont Butte series


Catch up with Boulder Weekly’s investigative series of Valmont Butte:

The Ghosts of Valmont Butte

Part one: The first part of the series provides an overview of the sites history from the first native Americans to use of the site through the decades of contamination as a result of various milling operations in the area.

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Valmont cemetery families say city in danger of digging up human remains

Part two: This portion of the series deals with the Valmont cemetery and how the proposed cleanup by the city and Honeywell could potentially unearth hidden graves. It also examines the lack of testing for contamination at the cemetery which is the most visited area of the Butte.

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How Reagan and the largest EPA scandal may explain why Valmont Butte is still contaminated

Part three: The ghost in part three of this series is Ronald Regan’s EPA, more particularly Anne Gorsuch Burford and Rita Lavelle who were both forced from office in the biggest EPA scandal in history. This article examines the 1982 EPA for a motive as to why it failed to place the Allied site at Valmont Butte on its Superfund National Priorities List.

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On the hook: A decision 40 years ago has come back to haunt Boulder taxpayers

Part four: This installment examines the history and mystery of the 200 truck loads of radium contaminated soil moved to the site in 1971 by the City of Boulder. There is great controversy as to where on the property the contaminated soil was buried and how it should be remediated. Boulder Weekly believes it has finally identified the correct location of the disposal area and its not within the cap area being proposed by the city and Honeywell as has been put forward by the city. 

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Valmont Butte’s got a dam problem, among others

Part five: This installment in the series examines suspect actions on the part of the EPA and State of Colorado with regards to their testing and analysis of potential pathways to human exposure from Allied Chemical’s Valmont Butte Mill site, both in the past and currently.

Specifically, the article examines several false assertions that have been made concerning the contamination over the years. These include inaccurate beliefs regarding groundwater, the containment safety of the 14-acre primary tailings pond and even the scope and location of the entire mill site which actually included tailings ponds and lakes on land to the south owned by Public Service Company, which operated its Valmont Station coal-fire plant in this location.  

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City responses to Valmont concerns follow familiar pattern

Part six: In part six of the Ghosts of Valmont Butte series, we examine the city’s response to citizen concerns regarding the butte as well as to questions raised by our series. The city’s history at the old Allied Mill site at the butte is to jump first and answer questions later. So far this pattern has cost taxpayers $5 million for an unusable piece of land. And worse, the city also has a pattern of seemingly being more concerned with avoiding liability than with keeping people safe or fully cleaning up the Butte. But this time around, citizen activists and at least one member of Boulder City Council are asking tough and specific questions.

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Behind closed doors: The citizens own Valmont Butte but may have been denied their right to public hearings for decades

Part seven: In 1968, the State of Colorado became an “agreement state” for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). What that means is that Colorado, more particularly the CDPHE, became in charge of enforcing and regulating the Atomic Energy Act in place of the NRC when it came to radioactive contamination in Colorado.

The courts are currently deciding if CDPHE is required to follow all of the original NRC guidelines set out by the federal government. In short, should the public have been given the opportunity for public hearings (including testimony under oath and cross examination) each time a radioactive materials license was issued, amended or terminated by the CDPHE at Valmont Butte? The citizens of Boulder never had such an opportunity and it is possible that they should have had as many as six such meetings over the years. If they had, it’s likely that things would have been much different at Valmont Butte.

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Anatomy of a mistake: City’s
August 2000 purchase of Valmont Butte was flawed on multiple levels

Part eight: This
installment examines the peculiar circumstances surrounding the city of Boulder’s purchase of the Valmont Butte property in August 2000. Boulder Weekly
pored over public records from the time and interviewed former city council
members and staff members to find out exactly what was known about the site’s
contamination history. Turns out, city council members weren’t told about the
property’s full, sordid past. And that wasn’t the only irregular thing about
the purchase process.

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Valmont residents confirm spread of contamination

Part nine: Ann Miller and her husband Douglas used to live on Valmont Road — directly across the street from the primary tailings pond dike dam at Valmont Butte that is suspected of being a pathway for the contamination that ended up in the wells north of Valmont Road over the years. Despite claims by various government officials that contamination has never spread from Valmont Butte to adjacent properties, Ann Miller and other nearby residents have a different story.

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Sacred Spine

Part 10: In recent times, Valmont Butte has become best known as contaminated mill site that was purchased under questionable circumstances by the City of Boulder some 12 years ago. But what has been lost in all the talk of radioactive tailings, lead contamination and remediation projects is the centuries-long cultural importance of the butte to Native Americans. This installment of the Ghosts of Valmont Butte series celebrates that long and important heritage.

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Valmont Butte timeline

Contaminants found at Valmont Butte

Lawyer: City/county could be liable for cemetery contamination

City disturbs possible Valmont grave site

City denies request for Valmont meetings, tours

City responds to Valmont concerns

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