EPA awards $220M contracts for uranium mine cleanup - Albuquerque Journal

EPA awards $220M contracts for uranium mine cleanup

An old United Nuclear Corp. building near the Church Rock uranium mine, northeast of Gallup. The EPA has awarded $220 million in contracts for cleanup of 50 abandoned uranium mine sites in the region. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The U.S. nuclear weapons program during the Cold War required a steady supply of uranium. But, after 30 million tons of the metal were extracted from Navajo lands, about 500 mine sites were left behind.

Now, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded contracts worth $220 million to three companies to clean up 50 abandoned uranium mine sites near Grants and on the Navajo Nation.

The EPA announced last week that it has awarded contracts to Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management Inc. and Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

An EPA document outlining the project said the contractors will remove “immediate contamination risks,” and work with federal and tribal agencies to find permanent solutions.

“Structures and water sources in the area contain elevated levels of uranium, radium and other radionuclides,” the document reads. “Few of the legacy uranium mine sites have undergone surface reclamation, and many have physical hazards that remain, such as open adits and shafts, as well as uncontrolled waste rock and ore piles on-site.”

Arrowhead and Environmental Quality Management are Native-owned businesses. The companies will create workforce training programs for Navajo residents as part of the projects.

Training could include construction and education about uranium contamination.

Valinda Shirley, Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency executive director

The EPA has also supplied the contractors with an extensive list of Indigenous businesses that can contribute to the cleanup. The contract money comes from a $1 billion settlement reached in 2015 with Kerr McGee Corp. and Tronox.

The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency helped develop the contracts. Valinda Shirley, executive director of the Navajo EPA, said they represent important progress in restoring Navajo lands.

“We are very pleased that Native American-owned firms are being considered and selected for the remediation of uranium mine sites,” Shirley said in a statement. “The award of these contracts propels the cleanup of our priority mine sites across the Navajo Nation.”

Shirley has worked on Navajo EPA cleanup of Tronox mines in Arizona and the Church Rock Mine north of Gallup. A 1979 disaster at that uranium mill sent 93 million gallons of radioactive waste into the Puerco River.

University of New Mexico research has linked Navajo and pueblo patients’ prolonged exposure to heavy metals to immune deficiencies, as well as higher likelihoods of hypertension, diabetes, some cancers, kidney disease and cardiovascular disease.

UNM’s latest Navajo Birth Cohort study showed that 25% to 35% of adult Navajo participants had uranium in their urine at concentrations higher than 95% of the U.S. population.

Site assessments are expected to begin later this year.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

 

Home » News » New Mexico News » EPA awards $220M contracts for uranium mine cleanup

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
Ready for Rihanna? A look at five songs that ...
ABQnews Seeker
Journal Staff WriterI am not sure ... Journal Staff WriterI am not sure if you have heard, but there is a football game this ...
2
Walmart near Highland High School to close next month
ABQnews Seeker
The roughly 287 employees who work ... The roughly 287 employees who work at the store are eligible for transfers to nearby Walmart locations, the company said.
3
House committee endorses automatic voter registration in New Mexico
ABQnews Seeker
In-person transactions at MVD offices would ... In-person transactions at MVD offices would register new voters, and Election Day would be a school holiday
4
Alford, Nevada break Lobo hearts yet again
ABQnews Seeker
Kenan Blackshear's final-second shot pushed Nevada ... Kenan Blackshear's final-second shot pushed Nevada past the UNM Lobos and continued Steve Alford's dominance over his former team.
5
Police investigating death in International District apartment complex
ABQnews Seeker
Homicide detectives have been called out ... Homicide detectives have been called out to the scene.
6
Not a winter wonderland, but it’s something: ABQ to ...
ABQnews Seeker
The snow accumulations weren’t above an ... The snow accumulations weren’t above an inch at the Albuquerque International Sunport.
7
From piñon to petrichor: 4 aromas that define Albuquerque ...
ABQnews Seeker
A group of Las Cruces fifth ... A group of Las Cruces fifth graders recently pitched a bill that would name the scent of roasting green chile the official state smell. ...
8
Scoring King: James passes Abdul-Jabbar for NBA points mark
ABQnews Seeker
LeBron James got the first official ... LeBron James got the first official statistic of his NBA career on a rebound. His next entry on the stat sheet was an assist. ...
9
Emptying the Notebook: Lobos losing 3-point battle every night ...
ABQnews Seeker
Some extra notes, quotes and analysis ... Some extra notes, quotes and analysis from Tuesday night's UNM Lobos loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack in the Pit.