EPA awards $220 million for uranium mine cleanup on Navajo Nation

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From the late Nineteen Forties via the Nineteen Sixties, Kerr-McGee mined greater than 7 million tons of ore on or close to the Navajo Nation, abandoning uranium mine websites.

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency stated Thursday it is going to award contracts price as much as $220 million to 3 firms for the cleanup of among the tons of of deserted uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Work may begin later this year following the completion of assessments for mining websites coordinated between the EPA and the Navajo Nation’s environmental company, the federal company stated.

This week’s announcement is simply the most recent in years of efforts to wash up the mines, the poisonous legacy of Cold War mining within the area. More than 30 million tons of uranium ore had been mined within the area, based on the EPA, which stated greater than 500 mines had been finally deserted.

“From World War II until the end of the Cold War, millions of tons of uranium were mined on Navajo lands, exposing mine workers and their families to deadly radiation,” stated Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Sedona, whose district contains the Arizona portion of the Navajo Nation.

“As a result, high rates of cancer, birth defects, and contaminated water sources remain a reality for residents of the Navajo Nation even now,” O’Halleran stated in a press release on the contracts.

RELATED: ‘For me, it is a matter of time:’ Navajo Nation residents share risks, penalties of uranium mines within the space

Officials with the Navajo Nation authorities and its environmental company didn’t instantly reply to requests for remark Friday on the announcement.

The Navajo Area Abandoned Mine Remedial Construction and Services Contracts had been awarded to contractors which are categorised as small companies, two of that are owned by Native Americans, the EPA stated. Contracts had been awarded to the Red Rock Remediation Joint Venture, Environmental Quality Management Inc. and Arrowhead Contracting Inc.

Terms of the contracts require the businesses to develop coaching applications “for Navajo individuals and businesses to promote professional growth” in areas associated to the cleanup work. The firms have additionally partnered with native companies on the project, the EPA stated.

The company stated it labored intently with Navajo Nation to develop contracts that will incentivize the creation of employment alternatives for Navajo residents so as to build native financial and institutional capability.

The majority of funding for the contracts comes from a virtually $1 billion settlement made in 2015 with Kerr McGee Corp. for the cleanup of greater than 50 mines in Nevada and on the Navajo Nation that the company and its successor, tronox, had been accountable for.

From the late Nineteen Forties via the Nineteen Sixties, Kerr-McGee mined greater than 7 million tons of ore on or close to the Navajo Nation, abandoning uranium mine websites that included contaminated waste rock piles. Exposure to uranium in soil, mud, air, and groundwater, in addition to via rock piles and structural supplies used for constructing can pose dangers to human well being, according to the EPA.

Mining stopped for probably the most half a long time in the past, and the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining on its lands in 2005. But the cleanup effort has lingered. The EPA launched five-year applications in 2007 and 2014 to review the problem and establish the largest dangers, and the company final year added deserted Navajo uranium mines to its checklist of Superfund sites “targeted for immediate, intense action.”

Representatives of Indigenous environmental teams didn’t reply to requests for remark and an official with the Grand Canyon chapter of the Sierra Club stated she was not acquainted sufficient with the contracts to remark – however did specific considerations that there isn’t a federal customary for what mine cleanup entails.

A regional EPA official stated that the “contract awards mark a significant step in this ongoing work.”

“EPA continues to work with the Navajo Nation EPA and local communities to address the legacy of abandoned uranium mines,” stated Deborah Jordan, appearing regional administrator for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest office, in Thursday’s assertion.

O’Halleran welcomed the announcement.

“I am glad to see my oversight efforts have pushed the EPA to make these critical investments,” he stated in a press release Friday.

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