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Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Colorado

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The tribe will spend $900,000 to try to extinguish coal-bed fires burning beneath reservation land. The effort involves injecting a foam-grout mixture into the earth, a plan some environmentalists fear could jeopardize the quality of ground water. The tribe said the fires need to be put out to protect the environment. It has contracted with Goodson and Associates Inc., a Lakewood engineering firm, to extinguish the fires using a patented grout material developed by the company. All of the fires are on the reservation, four in the Cinder Butte area, southeast of Marvel, and one northwest of Marvel. Goodson is to finish the work by the end of the year. "(The grout) will be composed of sand, cement, water and a special pre-generated foam that we combine with the cement mixture," said Joe Feiler, a project manager, adding the foam is a mixture of two to three different foaming chemicals. He would not name the chemicals for proprietary reasons. "They are not hazardous materials." Travis Stills, a lawyer for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said the project should be conducted under intense scrutiny, and in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management. "The whole history of coal-bed methane is that it's experimental and nobody knows what's going on."