[Federal Register Volume 60, Number 36 (Thursday, February 23, 1995)]
[Notices]
[Pages 10069-10072]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 95-4428]



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DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY


Finding of No Significant Impact Proposed Remedial Action at Two 
Uranium Processing Sites Near Slick Rock, CO

AGENCY: Department of Energy.

ACTION: Finding of no significant impact.

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SUMMARY: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has prepared an 
environmental assessment (EA) (DOE/EA-0339) of the proposed remedial 
action at two uranium processing sites near Slick Rock in San Miguel 
County, Colorado. These sites contain radioactively contaminated 
materials that would be removed and stabilized at a remote location. 
Based on the information and analyses in the EA, the DOE has determined 
that the proposed action does not constitute a major Federal action 
significantly affecting the quality of the human environment within the 
meaning of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969 (42 
U.S.C. 4321 et seq.), as amended. Therefore, preparation of an 
environmental impact statement is not required, and the DOE is issuing 
this Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

ADDRESSES: Single copies of the ea are available from: Charles Cormier, 
Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Acting Project Manager, U.S. 
Department of Energy, Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project 
Office, 2155 Louisiana NE, Suite 4000, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87110 
(505) 845-4628.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE NEPA PROCESS, CONTACT: Carol M. 
Borgstrom, Director, Office of NEPA Oversight, EH-25 U.S. Department of 
Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, D.C. 20585 (202) 
586-4600 or 1-800-472-2756.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    The Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act (UMTRCA) of 1978, 
Public Law (PL) 95-604, authorized the DOE to perform remedial action 
at two uranium processing sites near Slick Rock, Colorado, to reduce 
the potential health effects from the radioactive materials at the 
sites and at vicinity properties associated with the processing sites. 
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated standards 
for the UMTRCA in Title 40, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 192 (40 
CFR Part 192). These standards contain measures to control the 
contaminated materials and to protect groundwater quality. Remedial 
action at the Slick Rock sites must be performed in accordance with 
these standards and with the concurrence of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory 
Commission (NRC) and the state of Colorado.

Site Descriptions

    The Slick Rock uranium processing sites consist of the Union 
Carbide and North Continent sites. The Union Carbide processing site is 
approximately 2 road miles northwest of the unincorporated town of 
Slick Rock in San Miguel County, Colorado. The North Continent 
processing site is approximately 1 road mile east of the Union Carbide 
site. Both sites are on the west bank of the Dolores River in the 
floodplain, and the nearest residence to either site is approximately 
0.3 air mile. Both the Union Carbide and North Continent sites are 
privately owned. Almost all the land surrounding the processing sites 
is administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and is used for 
livestock grazing. County Roads S8, S9, and 10R traverse the area of 
the processing sites and connect with State Highway 141 approximately 
0.75 road mile south of the North Continent site.
    Contaminated materials at the Union Carbide and North Continent 
processing sites cover approximately 55 and 12 acres, respectively. 
There are also 17 acres of contaminated materials across the Dolores 
River from the Union Carbide site. The contaminated materials consist 
of the uranium mill tailings from the uranium ore processing 
operations, soils beneath the tailings, and windblown and waterborne 
contamination from the tailings. The total volume of contaminated 
materials at both processing sites is estimated to be 618,300 cubic 
yards. In addition, approximately 2500 cubic yards of contaminated 
materials at four nearby properties (vicinity properties) are 
associated with the processing sites.
    The proposed Burro Canyon disposal site is approximately 5 road 
miles east of the Slick Rock processing sites via County Roads S8 and 
10R and State Highway 141. The site is above the 1000-year floodplain 
of the Dolores River. The disposal site is on land administered by the 
BLM and used primarily for livestock grazing. The town of Slick Rock is 
approximately 2 air miles southwest of the disposal site.

Proposed Action

    The proposed remedial action is relocation of the contaminated 
materials from the Slick Rock processing sites to the Burro Canyon 
disposal site. At the disposal site, the contaminated materials would 
be stabilized in a partially below grade disposal cell and covered with 
approximately 5 feet of earth and rock. The disposal cell would cover 
approximately 12 acres and the final disposal site would cover 
approximately 57 acres. The final disposal site would be permanently 
transferred from the BLM to the DOE, and any future use of the disposal 
site would be precluded. Approximately 178 acres at the Burro Canyon 
site would be used for the disposal cell, final disposal site, and 
temporary construction facilities. Soil excavated at the disposal site 
would be used to construct the disposal cell; any remaining soil would 
be left at the disposal site, graded, and reseeded. Ground water at the 
disposal site would be protected by the claystones and mudstones in the 
geological formations below the disposal site. These natural foundation 
materials would inhibit any downward migration of contaminated water 
from the contaminated materials. The disposal cell cover system would 
inhibit infiltration of rainfall and runoff through the disposal cell.
    After remedial action, the Slick Rock processing sites would be 
backfilled with clean fill material, recontoured to promote surface 
drainage, and revegetated. The processing sites would then be released 
for any uses consistent with existing land use controls. The DOE will 
evaluate the need for ground water compliance at the processing sites 
during the Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Ground Water 
Project.
    The proposed remedial action includes the application of 
supplemental standards to approximately 17 acres of BLM-administered 
land across the Dolores River from the Union Carbide processing site. 
This area contains riparian habitat, and there is no access 
[[Page 10070]] to the area. Cleaning up this area would result in the 
destruction of riparian habitat and would be very costly because it 
would be necessary to construct a temporary bridge across the Dolores 
River. Furthermore, without the cleanup, the long-term health impacts 
to individuals and the general public residing in the vicinity of the 
area would be negligible. If this application of supplemental standards 
were approved by the NRC and the state of Colorado, the contamination 
in this area would not be cleaned up.
    The remedial action would require the use of earthen and rock 
materials. Earthen materials would be obtained from the Disappointment 
Valley borrow site on BLM-administered land that is used primarily for 
livestock grazing. This borrow site is approximately 7 road miles east 
of the Slick Rock processing sites and 4.4 road miles southeast of the 
Burro Canyon disposal site. Approximately 65 acres would be temporarily 
disturbed at the Disappointment Valley borrow site, and the borrow site 
would be restored in accordance with the Free Use Permit issued by the 
BLM. Rock materials would be obtained from the Dolores River borrow 
site, which is on privately owned land that is used for pasture and 
growing hay. This borrow site is just north of the Dolores River, 
midway between the Slick Rock processing sites. Approximately 25 acres 
would be temporarily disturbed at the Dolores River borrow site and 
would be restored in accordance with the land use agreement negotiated 
between the DOE and the land owner.
    The contaminated materials and borrow materials would be 
transported by truck between the processing, disposal, and borrow sites 
along County Roads S8 and 10R, State Highway 141, and a new 0.5-mile 
haul road from State Highway 141 to the Burro Canyon disposal site. 
Approximately 0.25 mile of County Road S8 crosses the southern portion 
of the Union Carbide processing site and would be temporarily relocated 
approximately 400 feet south, to allow cleanup of the processing site. 
Most of the land crossed by County Roads S8, S9, and 10R and the new 
haul road is administered by the BLM, and the use of these roads for 
the proposed remedial action would be authorized by rights-of-way 
issued by the BLM.
    Remedial action is scheduled to take 19 months with two winter 
shutdown periods of 5 months each (mid-November to mid-April). It is 
estimated that the remedial action would require an average work force 
of 100 workers and would cost $7.5 million.

Environmental Impacts

    The EA for the Slick Rock UMTRA Project sites assesses the 
environmental impacts that may result from the proposed remedial action 
and proposes mitigative measures that would reduce the severity of the 
impacts. This FONSI is based on the information and analyses in the EA, 
which are summarized below.

Supplemental Standards

    The proposed remedial action includes the application of 
supplemental standards to one area east of the Dolores River opposite 
the Union Carbide processing site. If this application of supplemental 
standards were approved by the NRC and state of Colorado, this area 
would not be cleaned up. Additional areas at and adjacent to the Slick 
Rock processing sites may be considered for the application of 
supplemental standards.

Air Quality

    The proposed action would have temporary minimal impacts to air 
quality. None of the impacts are expected to violate air quality 
regulations. The most important air pollutant created by the remedial 
action would be uncontrolled fugitive dust. Much of the fugitive dust 
would be produced along County Roads S8, S9, and 10R and the haul road 
to the Burro Canyon disposal site. An Air Pollution Emissions Notice 
and Emission Permit would be obtained from the state of Colorado prior 
to the beginning of the remedial action.
    This permit would require the implementation of a dust control plan 
that would include measures such as covering haul trucks, treating haul 
roads and disturbed areas with water or chemical additives, limiting 
speeds on unpaved haul roads, and stopping work during windy periods. A 
monitoring plan to ensure that air quality standards are not exceeded 
would be developed by the remedial action contractor and must be 
approved by the state of Colorado and San Miguel County before any 
ground-disturbing activities are initiated.

Health Effects Related to Radiation

    The proposed action would have a long-term positive impact on 
health by controlling and stabilizing the source of radiation. It is 
estimated that the proposed 19-month remedial action would result in 
0.0004 total excess health effects for the general public. No action at 
the processing sites would result in an estimated total of 0.0001 
excess health effects for the general public during the same 19 months; 
however, the increased risk of excess health effects would continue for 
thousands of years without remedial action. It is estimated that 5 
years of no action at the processing sites would result in 0.0003 
excess health effects for the general public. In addition, continued 
dispersion or unauthorized removal and use of the contaminated 
materials could result in greater excess health effects than those 
estimated for no action. The 19 months of remedial action would result 
in a calculated total of 0.0015 excess health effects for remedial 
action workers. Environmental monitoring would be performed at the 
processing and disposal sites and radiological control measures would 
be implemented to ensure that the public health is adequately and 
appropriately protected in accordance with DOE Order 5400.5, 
Radiological Protection of the Public and the Environment. Radiological 
exposures of remedial action workers would be controlled in accordance 
with DOE Order 5480.11, Radiation Protection for Occupational Workers. 
Operational measures that include wetting the work area, covering haul 
trucks, or temporarily stopping work during high winds would be 
implemented to reduce airborne radioactive particulate matter 
concentrations to below harmful levels.

Surface Water

    No adverse impacts to surface water quality would occur. Cleanup of 
contaminated materials at the Slick Rock processing sites would result 
in surface disturbance; surface water runoff from disturbed areas could 
be contaminated. In addition, contaminated wastewater would be 
generated by activities such as equipment washing. The remedial action 
design includes the construction of drainage and erosion controls, 
including lined wastewater retention ponds and silt fences or berms, to 
prevent the discharge of contaminated water from the sites. Appropriate 
drainage and erosion controls would also be used at the disposal and 
borrow sites to prevent or minimize erosion and any associated surface 
water impacts. Excavation of the North Continent site would be 
scheduled for the dry summer months to reduce the impact caused by 
precipitation and runoff. The DOE would comply with all applicable 
state of Colorado storm water regulations. After remedial action, 
surface water runoff would not cause erosion of the disposal cell and 
transport contaminants into local surface waters because erosion-
control features such as limiting the topslope of the disposal cell and 
the placement of rock erosion [[Page 10071]] protection are designed to 
withstand long-term erosive forces. Disturbed areas would be graded to 
promote drainage and would be revegetated when remedial actions are 
complete.

Ground Water

    The proposed action would have a positive effect on ground water 
below the processing site by removing the source of contaminants. No 
impacts are expected to ground water below the disposal cell. The 
disposal cell at the Burro Canyon site is designed to control 
radioactive and nonradioactive contaminants in compliance with the 
EPA's proposed ground water protection standards. The protection of 
human health and the environment at the Burro Canyon disposal site 
would be ensured by a combination of design features and advantageous 
hydrogeologic conditions. There is no existing or potential use of 
ground water in the uppermost aquifer in the immediate vicinity of the 
Burro Canyon site because sustainable amounts of ground water are not 
available from the aquifer. The cleanup and/or control of existing 
ground water contamination at the Union Carbide and North Continent 
processing sites will be evaluated during the ground water compliance 
phase of the UMTRA Project.

Flora and Fauna

    Flora and fauna would be affected directly and indirectly by the 
proposed remedial action. Direct effects would include the loss of 
habitat, loss of less-mobile wildlife species, and displacement of 
other wildlife species. Indirect effects would arise from increased 
fugitive dust, noise levels, and human activity. The duration of the 
direct effects would depend on the restoration of disturbed areas. 
Indirect effects would continue for the duration of the remedial action 
or less.
    Mitigative measures to protect bighorn sheep that could be killed 
accidentally by haul trucks would be speed limits and driver education. 
Removal of water from the Dolores River would be limited to amounts 
that would be protective of fish and wildlife that require an adequate 
flow in the river.

Mineral Resources and Soils

    No impacts to mineral resources would occur. Temporary impacts to 
soils would occur during the proposed action. Disturbed soils would 
undergo restoration after remedial activities are complete. Topsoils 
would be excavated, stored, and then replaced during restoration. A 
loss of mining claims on the proposed Burro Canyon disposal site would 
occur. The DOE would compensate valid claim holders to the extent 
required by law.

Threatened and Endangered Species

    Impacts to fish and their critical habitat would occur as a result 
of the proposed action. The use of water from the Dolores River for 
remedial action would cause a net depletion of approximately 150 acre-
feet of water in the upper Colorado River basin. This has resulted in a 
``may affect'' determination for the endangered Colorado squawfish, 
humpback chub, bonytail chub, and razorback sucker and their critical 
habitat. These determinations required formal consultation with the 
FWS, which resulted in the identification of mitigation consisting of a 
one-time payment of $11.98 per acre-foot of water based on an average 
annual use. The funds would be used to improve conditions for 
endangered fish species.
    The southwestern willow flycatcher has been proposed as threatened 
and endangered. This bird species was not present in the area of the 
Slick Rock processing sites in 1990, 1991, and 1994, but potential 
habitat for this species does occur at the sites. A survey for this 
species would be conducted prior to the remedial action. If it is 
determined that the southwestern willow flycatcher nests at or near 
areas that may be disturbed by the remedial action, formal 
consultations with the FWS would be initiated and a mitigation plan 
would be prepared. Similarly, surveys were conducted at the proposed 
disposal site for black-footed ferrets; none were found.

Floodplains and Wetlands

    During the proposed remedial action at the Slick Rock processing 
sites, contaminated materials would be removed from the 100-year 
floodplain of the Dolores River. Approximately 28 and 13 acres would be 
disturbed within the 100-year floodplain at the Union Carbide and North 
Continent sites, respectively. After the remedial action, the disturbed 
areas would be backfilled with clean fill material to approximate the 
original 100-year floodplain. However, the man-made ground elevations 
of the tailings pile at the Union Carbide site would not be 
reestablished, which would increase the area of the 100-year floodplain 
at the site by approximately 7 acres. Remedial action at the North 
Continent site would not increase the size of the 100-year floodplain.
    Flooding is not a hazard at the Burro Canyon disposal site. The 
site is above the 100-year floodplain of the Dolores River and is 60 
feet higher in elevation than the closest intermittent drainage area. 
Remedial action activities at the Dolores River borrow site probably 
would occur within the 100-year floodplain of the Dolores River. Upon 
completion of the remedial action, the disturbed area at the Dolores 
River borrow site would be restored, but the area of the 100-year 
floodplain at the borrow site would be slightly increased. Remedial 
action activities at the Disappointment Valley borrow site would not 
occur within a 100-year floodplain.
    The proposed remedial action would disturb riparian plant 
communities along the Dolores River. Approximately 42 acres of riparian 
plant communities would be disturbed at the Union Carbide and North 
Continent processing sites. It was determined that 10 acres of these 
riparian plant communities meet the USACE definition of a wetland. 
These wetlands are regulated by the USACE through its Section 404 
Permit process, and the DOE would mitigate remedial action impacts to 
wetlands as determined by this process. Approximately 17 acres of 
riparian plant communities across the Dolores River from the Union 
Carbide site are contaminated but are not proposed for cleanup during 
the remedial action by the application of supplemental standards. The 
application of supplemental standards to the other 42 acres of riparian 
plant communities at the Union Carbide and North Continent sites would 
not be feasible due to the relatively high levels of contamination in 
these areas.
    The no action alternative would leave the contaminated materials in 
the floodplain and wetland areas of the Dolores River and continue to 
adversely impact the floodplains and wetlands by not controlling the 
source of contamination. The proposed action involves action within the 
floodplain and wetland areas. Based on the Floodplain/Wetlands 
Assessment, the DOE has determined that there is no practical 
alternative to the proposed activities in the floodplain and wetlands 
areas and that the proposed remedial action has been designed to 
minimize potential harm to or within the floodplain and wetland areas.
    The Floodplain/Wetlands Assessment in the EA and this Floodplain 
Statement of Findings were prepared pursuant to Executive Orders 11988, 
Floodplain Management, and 11990, Protection of Wetlands, and 10 CFR 
Part 1022, Compliance With Floodplain/Wetlands Environmental Review 
Requirements. Mitigation measures to reduce impacts to floodplain 
disturbance would be to backfill disturbed areas with clean fill 
[[Page 10072]] material to approximate the original 100-year 
floodplain. However, the man-made ground elevations of the tailings 
pile at the Union Carbide site would not be reestablished, which would 
increase the area of the 100-year floodplain at the processing site by 
approximately 7 acres. Remedial action at the North Continent site 
would not increase the size of the 100-year floodplain.

Historical and Cultural Resources

    Two cultural resource sites, one near the Union Carbide processing 
site and the other near the Burro Canyon disposal site, are not 
expected to be affected by remedial action activities. Both of these 
cultural resource sites would be fenced and avoided during remedial 
action, and the site near the Union Carbide processing site would be 
further protected by a barrier to shield against dust, rocks, and 
exhaust fumes. If any additional cultural resources are identified 
during the remedial action (e.g., subsurface resources), work would 
stop in the area of the cultural resources, and the appropriate state 
and Federal agencies would be consulted to determine the significance 
of and protection for the resources. The Ute Mountain, Southern, and 
Northern Ute Tribes were also consulted to determine whether the 
proposed remedial action would impact any tribal cultural use areas. No 
impacts were identified.

Land Use

    The remedial action would result in the temporary and permanent 
disturbance of approximately 335 acres of land. This would result in 
the temporary and permanent loss of grazing forage at the Slick Rock 
processing sites, Burro Canyon disposal site, and Dolores River and 
Disappointment Valley borrow sites. The DOE would mitigate the 
temporary and permanent loss of grazing forage in accordance with land-
use agreements negotiated with affected grazing lessees and private 
landowners.
    The final restricted Burro Canyon disposal site would encompass 
approximately 57 acres, and any future use of this area would be 
precluded. After remedial action, the Slick Rock processing sites would 
be released for any use consistent with existing land-use controls.
    Six unpatented mining claims exist within the proposed permanent 
withdrawal area. The DOE would compensate valid claim holders to the 
extent required by law.

Socioeconomics

    The remedial action impacts on employment, housing, community 
services, and the economy would be minimal due to the short duration of 
the remedial action and the relatively small number of workers 
required. These impacts would be expected to be distributed among 
numerous nearby and more distant communities; consequently, no single 
community would be affected substantially by the remedial action. The 
wages and salaries paid to remedial action workers and expenditures for 
equipment, materials, and supplies would have direct, positive impacts 
on the economies of San Miguel, Dolores, and Montezuma Counties. The 
local economies also would benefit indirectly as these wages, salaries, 
and expenditures are respent locally on other goods and services. 
Direct and indirect expenditures would generate tax revenues that would 
be available to local and state government use.

Transportation

    The remedial action would increase the traffic volume on County 
Roads S8, T11 and State Highway 141. A portion of County Road S8 would 
be relocated to allow cleanup of the Union Carbide processing site. 
These roads and highway would be improved as necessary, and other 
mitigative measures (e.g., trained flag persons and temporary warning 
signs) would be implemented as required to mitigate the potential 
traffic hazards. After remedial action, these roads and highway would 
be returned to their original locations and conditions. The public 
would be restricted from access to County Roads S9 and 10R and a 
private disposal site access road off T11 during remedial action, which 
is expected to last 19 months.

Alternative to the Proposed Action

No Action Alternative

    The no action alternative would consist of leaving the contaminated 
materials in their present conditions and locations at the Slick Rock 
processing sites. The contaminated materials would continue to be 
exposed to erosion, and eventual erosion of the contaminated materials 
would result in the transport of contaminants into the Dolores River. 
The processing sites and adjacent areas would remain unusable. The 
contaminated materials would also be susceptible to unauthorized 
removal and use by humans, which could cause more widespread 
contamination and increased public health hazards. The no action 
alternative is not a legal alternative for the DOE and would not 
satisfy the requirements of the UMTRCA (PL 95-604).

Alternatives Considered and Rejected

    The DOE's analysis of disposal site alternatives encompassed 
technical, environmental, and cost factors, as well as the risks 
associated with each alternative. Alternatives evaluated but rejected 
were 1) stabilization of the mill tailings in place at the processing 
sites, 2) stabilization of the mill tailings at other locations near 
the processing sites, and 3) colocating the mill tailings at other 
uranium mill tailings sites. The first alternative was rejected because 
the major portion of the tailings would be stabilized in the flood 
plain of the Dolores River and water resources protection would be 
inadequate. The second was rejected due to the other sites' proximity 
to ground water. The third was rejected because the cost of disposal 
would result in significant increases in cost by a factor of two and 
six, respectively, over the cost of disposal at Burro Canyon.

Determination

    Based on the information and analyses in the EA, the DOE has 
determined that the proposed remedial action does not constitute a 
major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human 
environment within the meaning of the NEPA. Therefore, the preparation 
of an environmental impact statement is not required.

    Signed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this 27th day of January, 
1995.
Bruce G. Twining,
Manager.
[FR Doc. 95-4428 Filed 2-22-95; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 6450-01-P