Environmental Protection

EPA to Clean Up Uranium Mines on Navajo Nation

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the Department of Energy, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, recently finalized a five-year plan for cleaning up the legacy of abandoned uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.

The plan, titled, "Health and Environmental Impacts of Uranium Contamination in the Navajo Nation, Five-Year Plan," is the first coordinated approach created by the five federal agencies.

"This plan serves as an important milestone in addressing uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation" said Wayne Nastri, administrator of EPA's Pacific Southwest region. "After years of working independently on these issues, these five agencies have collaborated with the Navajo Nation to establish a clear strategy for cleaning up the legacy of uranium mining waste."

EPA is currently addressing the most urgent risks on the reservation--uranium-contaminated water sources and structures. This spring, the agency tested 50 water sources and more than 100 structures for radiological contamination. EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA have launched an outreach campaign to inform residents of the dangers of consuming contaminated water. EPA also will use its Superfund authority to address contaminated structures and has already targeted at least 13 structures for remediation.

Beginning in the 1940s, nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore were mined at various locations throughout the Navajo Nation's 27,000-square-mile reservation. During the next five years, EPA will complete a tiered assessment of more 500 abandoned mines, taking action to address the highest priority risks.

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