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Navajo Nation Adopts Five-Year Plan for Uranium Cleanup

Environment  (tags: American Indians, Native Americans, conservation, environment, protection, culture, society, politics, safety, government, destruction, environment, habitat, healthconditions, pollution )

- 2771 days ago -
The Navajo Nation's position on cleanup options is for total removal of radioactive waste. Cleanup may be in jeopardy...

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kat yazzie (400)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 5:12 am
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Following a recent meeting with members of the House Resource Committee and Navajo Environmental Protection Agency, participants received an update on progress in the Navajo five-year plan to address uranium contamination from staffers from Henry Waxman's office.

Waxman (D. CA) initiated the plan in October of 2007 following congressional hearings on Navajo Nation contamination, and a directive was issued to federal agencies to collaborate with the tribe on addressing the problems. These agencies include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Indian Health Service, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Clancy Tenley and Deborah Schechter of U.S. EPA Region 9 discussed their agency's efforts to address uranium contamination at abandoned mines, contaminated structures and water sources on the reservation.

“We have plans to clean up seven structures by this fall,” Schechter said. “The goal is to assess and remediate at least 500 structures by the end of 2012.”

Since 2007, the U.S. EPA and the Navajo EPA have assessed 199 structures, completed 14 replacement homes and have removed ten yards of contaminated soil in regions across the reservation.

In regard to mining and mills, Tenley stated that the EPA completed a multi-year effort to assess uranium contamination in 2007. The results revealed that 520 mines have been identified as high-risk mines in need of cleanup. He said that his agency's goal is to screen all 520 mines by the end of 2011. At this time 87 mines are being screened.

The U.S. EPA representatives pointed out that the northeast Church Rock mine is one of the highest priorities on the reservation. It is the largest known underground uranium mine in the country and radioactive waste piles continue to flush into a nearby wash and onto land surrounding homes close to the mine.

At this site, approximately 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil have been removed and a cost analysis for cleanup options has been developed.

Tenley reported that total removal of contaminated materials would be costly because they would have to be transported to a milling site in Idaho.

The Navajo Nation's position on cleanup options is for total removal of radioactive waste.

Jack Reaver of the BIA reported that the Tuba City, Ariz., open dump is still being investigated. The Navajo EPA asserted that more federal funding is needed for this site because there are known plumes which have either moved toward or within major watersheds. The agency believes that this movement could possibly contaminate the Navajo Aquifer, a major groundwater supply to the Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe.

“Tuba City has a shallow underground water system,” said Cassandra Bloedel of Navajo EPA. “We have found uranium outside Tuba City Open Dump and we don't want to see contamination of these systems. This is an areas that will need greater concentration of funding down the road.”

Cleanup may be in jeopardy

FLAGSTAFF, ARIZ. - During a meeting between the Navajo Resources Committee and the Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands Program, it was reported that the program may be losing its $38 million federal funding source because of changes in the federal budget proposal.

The U.S. Treasury provides the funding, largely with coal taxes collected from production on the Navajo Nation. The budget proposal calls for an end to all payments to AML programs as well as funding for certified tribal and state programs by fiscal year 2011 and use those funds for high priority coal projects.

This turn of events would greatly hamper the tribe's efforts to address legacy uranium mining issues.

Madeline Roanhorse, department manager for Navajo AML, reported that 166 of 1,032 uranium mines on the reservation continue to present health hazards to Navajo people living near downwind abandoned uranium mines. She added that Navajo AML reclaimed and maintains 264 coal mines.

According to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 and its later amendments, the Navajo AML Program is mandated to receive payments from fees collected from coal production on the Navajo Nation through 2022. The Navajo AML will continue to request funding from the federal government and assert that the Navajo Nation is rightfully owed money collected from resources taken from its lands.

The meeting also heard of public facilities projects, which focus on infrastructure developments at chapters adversely affected by abandoned uranium mines. Currently, the chapters of Cudei, Sweetwater and Whiterock have public facility projects in progress. There is also groundwater cleanup in the works at the Monument Valley and Tuba City, Ariz., and Mexican Hat, Utah, and Shiprock mining sites.

The Intergovernmental Relations Committee of the tribe has passed a resolution opposing the proposed termination of funding to the Navajo AML and will join that group in meeting with congressional leaders to attempt to save the funding sources.

Teresa W (782)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 5:47 am
thank you

Patricia Cannell (852)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 6:32 am
Noted. Thanks!

Debbie Hogan (115)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 6:48 am
Truly sad they are living with this. I hope it can be sorted and cleared up.Thank you.

Jeannette A (137)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 7:15 am
This is unacceptable, and needs more than a "Please don't cut the funding" response. The government responds to pressure and especially to publicity. It is truly a hard fight but one that must be taken on as the health of all water sources need to be the primary concern. Without water and clean air and soil, humanity does not survive. We need to make healing our planet our first priority.

Hazel Neely (62)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 7:41 am
Thanks Kat

Kindle G (1568)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 8:53 am
geez what else is new !!?? the government agrees the govt takes away. where the health and land clean up is not the issue or now not as important, being over rode by other things!! how can they keep doing this to people??

The U.S. EPA representatives pointed out that the northeast Church Rock mine is one of the highest priorities on the reservation. It is the largest known underground uranium mine in the country and radioactive waste piles continue to flush into a nearby wash and onto land surrounding homes close to the mine.


Pamylle G (461)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 9:10 am
This should be high priority - cutting these funds is criminal !

Dave Kane (308)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 9:20 am
Biggest danger is the contamination of underground aquifers which would be impossible to "clean up". And, I'm certain, has already happened in much too many places. The government treats us all alike in this respect -- they don't give a crap until it's too late and the corporations have moved on with their profits. And then they just wave their hands and act as if they are doing something.

Stephen Hill (633)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 9:34 am
Wado Kat for bringing this to our attention. I have noted the article!

Kelly C (176)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 11:23 am
The "For Profit" corporations share some of the clean-up responsibily for sure. Thanks for the article Kat.

Vukan Simic (121)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 11:46 am
Noted, thanks Kat.

Penelope Ryan (178)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 12:32 pm
I want the original people to profit but not be poisoned by the waste. I hope that the clean up partnership works and individuals are not effected.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 1:01 pm
This should be a priority.

Patricia Lopez (11)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 1:04 pm
I'm so sick of this type of bull crap! The government is &has been trying to exterminate our people from the beginning in one way or another.The Canadian government forcibly have our native sisters sterilized.On our rez there are doctors who were bard from public practice or private, so the government sends them to the rez.My friend's dad was having bad chest pains which extending down his left arm.When the doctor saw him and said it was just indigestion.He went home and felt a little better, & out to mow the lawn and fell over dead of a heart-attack.The tribe can not afford to go to doctors off the rez.

Leanne B (46)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 1:17 pm
Thank you for this information.

Trading Post (0)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 1:29 pm
Great information! Thank a bunch!

Tamila mendoza (177)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 1:31 pm
Wow. If you asked me, I'd say they should be demanding action right this minute.

tony lane (3)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 1:44 pm
it is amazing that i already made a comment about how the native american indians have badly treated by sucessive governments by giving them land and then taking it away from them and if it was ever given back when they got what they wanted from it they left in such a state it was either toxic with chemicals or it was radioactive,and you would expect a lot better but it seems that although they cannot treat the indians properly, they cannot treat the land properly either or clean up after.

Ellen W (0)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 2:12 pm
Very sad and aggravating bit of news. And some the US is still talking about nuclear energy as "clean". What a disgrace.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 2:27 pm
Noted (& ´ve been Thinking ab. this (= doesn´t help, though))

. (1)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 2:40 pm
Noted. Thank you Kat.

Darlene K (356)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 2:59 pm
very noted and thank you
This cleanup is not negotiable, this is toxic to ALL life.

Winefred M (88)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:00 pm
Governments will never change I suppose!There should be a protest,I mean on big scale,to let the government clean the mess.

Randall Gloege (0)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:13 pm
Buried in my files at home is a photograph of Navajo children playing on uranium tailings piles. It is long past time to implement a thorough cleanup of irradiated mine sites and related structures. The Navajo ought never to have undertaken uranium mining in the first place. This choice made them the victims of their own decisions. I can only hope that the cleanup is extensive and complete. Unfortunately, the record of the U.S. government is dubious where production of uranium is concerned. Radiation-related cancers are the result of past policies. Short-term money probably looked good to individuals living on the poverty line.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:15 pm
Hon. Henery Waxman, One of the last of the people's Representatives.

Dennis Cooney (11)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:24 pm
This article is very significant. When the white man cam to America they took all they could carry away from the American indians. Not some two hundread years later the Navajo Indians have stepped up and taken the lead in the effort to clean up wast left behind. I'll just betcha if they were doing the mining from the start this problem would not be a problem at all. It would have been done right the first time!!

Dennis C. Cooney, USN Retired, Vietnam Veteran, 3 tours

kat yazzie (400)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:35 pm
Thanks for these wonderful comments, everyone.

Randall, please allow me to respond, with respect. The Government came in and relocated many people on the Navajo Nation Rez (Reservation) so they could rob the Mother of her uranium. Many many people have died as a result. The Father of my husband was one of those people. The Navajos never did want the Government to come in and do what they did.

Again... these are all great comments from you guys! THANKS!!!

Edwin M (346)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:42 pm
Thank you for posting this Kat

Barbara K (60)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:52 pm
I think it is about time the government takes responsibility and does the right things with the American Natives. It seems that the ones who can afford it the least are the ones who get tromped on over and over. This kind of crap has been going on long enough. Come on, for crying out loud, U.S. Government do the right thing and do it now. Give them the full funding as promised, after all the government's reputation is at stake here. So far, it hasn't been looking so good, I hope it soon improves.

josie batlles (44)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 3:57 pm
thank you for sharing x

Talldeer C (47)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 4:44 pm
We Never want the Yonega Government to come in but they do and rape and kill MOTHER EARTH and all NATIVE inhabitants....Makes me Sick MY BLOOD IS BOILING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Wado my Darling Ulv Kat....

Norm C (74)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 5:09 pm
We see an ongoing lack of interest in and blatant disregard for all Native Peoples. The attitude seems to be, "hey, they're all just a bunch of lazy dogs. Who cares?" Everything seems to have a higher priority than anything having to do with Native Americans.

I wish this were just something coming from the right wing wackadoodles. But it seems to be far more pervasive.

Aletta Kraan (146)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 5:51 pm
Noted , this should have been cleaned long ago !

Linda h (86)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 5:55 pm
A start.

Linda Thompson (16)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 6:26 pm
We have a lot of reparations to make to the indiginous people- this clean up, but also the way they live and are educated- always honoring their traditions.

Ron Avila (20)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 7:24 pm
we must clean this up

Henry P (171)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 8:49 pm
Thanks Kat

Teresa K (33)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 9:07 pm
The truly sad part is that it is even a Question! How can this be a Question?

ChanTlalok Rain C (363)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 9:32 pm
thanx Kat, a lot of caring Care2 people, great comments. I've asked the Great Spirit, WHY. The answer so far, one day I will know. This land was once flowing with virgin rivers & streams, beautiful forests, beautiful skies and tasteful air, songs from animals and insects, loving Natives who took care of this paradise. And now it's existence and survival and misery, brought about by the Great White Man with his Bullshi_ economic and political systems. Ahoo, God Bless.

greenplanet e (155)
Tuesday September 21, 2010, 11:31 pm
That's a lot of mines and "contaminated structures" (wonder what the "structures" are?). Can they really be cleaned up? Really awful that radioactive contanimation has occurred on First Nations' land.

KAREN L (10)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 12:21 am
The American Indians have suffered far too long to have projects that affect their health and welfare discontinued. Thanks for the article

Krasimira B (175)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 12:49 am
How can this be a Question? Noted. Thank you Kat.

Bruce Eyster (20)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 1:45 am
The whole planet is being contaminated , in the name of "progress !"

Theo Roropoulos (19)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 2:33 am

Bob E (113)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 3:58 am
I live on the Navajo Reservation… Noted...

Chiara C (23)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 3:58 am
What can I say? I pray for Mother Earth every day. This world is in desperate need of a change... I'd give up on everything I own, just to live like your people before 1492.
This is not progress, it is Madness. The Earth has all we need... But they made us forget and enslaved us.
They only care about money... They will pay. Not in this life, perhaps, but one day they will.

Wednesday September 22, 2010, 4:28 am
Noted - Thanks Kat!

patricia lasek (317)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 6:06 am
My mother always said : "If you make a mess, you clean it up".
The for-profit companies made the mess an the money. They should be forced to clean it by the EPA.

L X (529)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 8:17 am
The thing to do would be not to just ask for money, but to sue for it. The people surrounding the Love Canal (Hooker Chemical) and Woburn, Mass. (WR Grace), toxic chemical dumping areas, with the help of an eventually pro bono attorney, finally sued the polluters via the EPA and eventually won big, though their loved ones still died from cancer. There is substantial legal precedent for this kind of massive class-action suit.

If the original uranium mining companies still exist or were bought out by other companies that now exist, and if anybody who worked for them and may have witnessed or seen records of the company's practices is still alive, they should be sued for environmental destruction and endangerment of life by all the surrounding people.

Cancer and early death and miscarriage records for the area for the last three generations should be collected where they can be dug up everywhere they can be found: the nearest city hall, coroner's office, nearest hospital, local doctors or medics, midwives. Everybody in the area needs to find a way to get a thorough medical exam with bloodwork. If the EPA will not help victims pursue the legal avenue of obtaining restitution for these losses, then the EPA itself should be sued.

The Center for Biological Diversity now handles such large lawsuits involving environmental destruction, and may help. The first thing to do, after initial evidence and an attorney are obtained, would be not to publicize this matter outside the community, and to subpoena any and all remaining mining records, before surviving companies are alerted and destroy old records.

L X (529)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 8:32 am
This is not simply a "mess," like a garbage dump; this is an endangerment to all life. Greater efforts must be made to keep people without Hazmat suits as far away from the mines as possible, and to sequester or somehow safely salvage and re-use (possibly profitably) what is left of the uranium ore. Whether the original working mine owners were all white, or whether the top owners included some Native Americans victimizing their brothers, this responsibility must be shouldered by the descendants of those involved, directed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Charmaine C (177)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 8:49 am
The Indians lived as one with the earth, with respect, compassion and great commitment to family and nation. They have the greatest respect for the earth and it's creatures, the water, and the sky! From the beginning, when the settlers overran their lands, everything they valued was destroyed or taken away from them and they were lured into the agencies under false pretentions. Those that wouldn't acquiesce were hunted down and killed. They were force fed a diet of white men's lies and deceit. So many years later, the nations scattered to the winds, they are still being cheated of what is rightfully theirs. My heart breaks when I think of the injustices that have and are still being done to these people. Do the right thing by the people on whose bones, souls and land you have built your empire!!

Aneta J (0)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 10:59 am

C. G (1)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 1:28 pm
noted and thanks

. (0)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 3:39 pm
Sadly noted.

Trish K (93)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 6:01 pm
No backlog of clean ups should exist. This junk should have been taken care of ages ago. Hatred of indigenous
people. We can't let the government get away with this. More people must wake up before others die.

Lynn C (94)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 10:06 pm
The Navajo's are showing us the way (again) to clean up Mother Earth. Not only should we assist them in their efforts but begin to do this very thing all over our country!

patrica and edw jones (190)
Wednesday September 22, 2010, 11:40 pm
Great post thanks Kat. Isn't it the Navajo that make that wonderful turquoise jewellry?

Tom M (814)
Thursday September 23, 2010, 12:45 am

Andrew Butt (84)
Thursday September 23, 2010, 1:13 am
This uranium waste is a hazard to people and animals living nearby, the option to not cleanup these sites is not an option, someone is responsible for the operation of the mining in the past probably made a lot of money from the proceeds of sales as did taxes from the Government. These taxes should be used to help restore these sites as should the people originally in charge of the mines. People and animals at these sites need to live safely.

Melissah C (389)
Thursday September 23, 2010, 3:36 am

kat yazzie (400)
Thursday September 23, 2010, 4:33 am

The High Cost of Uranium in Navajoland:

AWAY AWHILE Cal M (1067)
Thursday September 23, 2010, 10:24 am
Thanks Kat!!

Christine G (0)
Monday September 27, 2010, 5:34 am
Another example of the nuclear industry leaving behind a cancerous legacy that will remain for hundreds of thousands of years. Nuclear proponents talk of carbon free - U mining has a huge carbon footprint - thats before you clean up! 85% of the radioactivity remains after mining of Uranium, this and the toxic chemical compounds that pervade our atmosphere, our water and our food chain.
Say NO to NUCLEAR POWER and lets clean up the existing U & nuclear sites as soon and as well as we are able. Nuclear is cheap because we end up paying with our lives, our health and our taxes for their millenniums of toxic waste.

Karen Tucker (33)
Sunday October 3, 2010, 10:10 pm
noted, Kat! Hopefully the uranium will be cleaned up soon.

Mark S (0)
Monday October 4, 2010, 9:06 am
Noted and thank you for posting. There is much we still have to learn from the Aboriginal people.

Lynn Shauinger (5)
Wednesday October 6, 2010, 8:27 am

Ted L. (0)
Friday February 17, 2012, 2:36 pm
It is a shame that they have to do this in this world today.
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