Colo. county faulted for spending on dump lawsuit

AP News
Posted: Jan 05, 2010 1:55 PM

A Colorado judge has fined Adams County $8,000 for spending $1 million from a hazardous-waste fund to sue the state over radioactive waste.

The decision on the fine came last week. A judge had ruled earlier that the county improperly used the fund to finance a lawsuit challenging a state license to store low-level radioactive waste in the county.

The ruling on the fund doesn't affect the underlying lawsuit.

The fund was set up by the Legislature to pay for the cost of regulating the dump in Deer Trail, 70 miles east of Denver. The dump operator pays into the fund.

In 2005, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment granted a license to Clean Harbors Environmental Services of Norwell, Mass., to store low-level radioactive waste at the site.

Adams County sued, saying the license illegally contradicted a county permit, which didn't allow radioactive waste. That lawsuit is still pending.

Until late 2006, the county paid for the lawsuit with money from the Deer Trail fund, but in 2007 it switched to other sources to avoid depleting the fund.

Adams County Attorney Hal Webber said Tuesday county officials believe the legal fees are a proper use of the fund and will probably appeal. He said the county had to wait for the ruling on the size of the fine before deciding whether to proceed.