GOLDEN, Colo. - A uranium company is considering using molasses to clean up an abandoned uranium mine west of Denver.
Cotter Corp. is hoping the procedure will reduce a threat to city water supplies.
According to the Denver Post, Cotter officials believe bacteria inside the mine will devour the molasses and dissolved uranium, creating solid uranium particles that can be recovered.
"We believe we can get the water to such a state that it would be OK to let it come out," Cotter vice president John Hamrick said in an interview with the newspaper. "We're using our best efforts to do this as quickly as we can."
Hamrick told the newspaper that bacteria "will eat the uranium to live, and part of what they excrete, or the byproduct of that, is a solid particle that will fall down to the bottom of the mine."
The process, called “bioremediation,” is an alternative to pumping and treating uranium-contaminated mine water, the newspaper reports.
The uranium concentration in the mine water reached concentrations as high as 24,000 parts per billion, according to the newspaper. The federal drinking water standard for safety is 30 parts per billion.
The mine water has contaminated Ralston Creek, which flows into Ralston Reservoir, a source of drinking water for 1.3 million residents in the Denver metro area, the newspaper reports.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved Cotter's project and state regulators are reviewing it.