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Sodium cyanide shipments proposed via rail and truck over La Veta Pass and through Walsenburg

HUERFANO — At a public forum held in Blanca on February 17, citizens learned of a proposed five acre transfer station to be built in Blanca. The single function of this transfer station will be to off load liquid sodium cyanide from rail cars, which will have traveled from Nevada to northern Colorado, down south through Walsenburg and over the La Veta Pass rail route. The chemical will then be transferred into tanker trucks and hauled back east on Highway 160 over La Veta Pass back through Walsenburg to I-25. The trucks then head north to Colorado Springs and west to Cripple Creek, where the chemical will be used in a gold mining operation. Representatives from the company claimed this was the least mountainous route available and was therefore the safest route, even with the cyanide moving over La Veta Pass and through Walsenburg twice. Sodium cyanide is an extremely toxic substance, requiring strict safety precautions in both shipping and use. It will be used to chemically strip gold from ore. The firm behind this plan is Cyanco, with facilities in northern Nevada and Houston, Texas. Company representatives were present at the public

meeting, which attracted more than 200 people, to explain the proposal. At least three people from Huerfano County were in attendance. Joe Edes, who lives near La Veta, was one of the locals attending the two hour session. Edes said Cyanco staff explained this will be a large operation. “They said this project will last for 13 years, with sodium cyanide shipments coming through Walsenburg and over La Veta Pass five days a week, Monday through Friday, weather permitting.” This translates into five to six railcars of cyanide going west per week, and four to five trucks per day traveling east over La Veta Pass and then north through Walsenburg. Edes noted there have been three recent derailments west of La Veta, and that concerned him. At the February 17, La Veta Town Board meeting the subject was brought by trustee Chip Kraynyk, who cited a recent article he had read in the Pueblo Chieftain. It was noted that more than 10,000 railroad ties were replaced last summer between La Veta and Ft. Garland. Some speculated that perhaps the rail improvements were connected to the proposed chemical shipments. Additional information is needed to fully understand the potential impact the shipments could have on Huerfano County. La Veta Fire Protection District David De Fray attended the meeting. It is expected that Cyanco will be working with various fire districts located along the shipping routes. The WJ contacted Cyanco company representative Bob Warriner Wednesday morning. Warriner stressed, “This is only a proposal at this point, this route. Nothing is final.” Warriner said the company was surprised at the level of concern expressed at the Blanca meeting, and that the company was unaware of recent derailments that have occurred, both west of La Veta and in Walsenburg.