EPA Contract Awarded for Abandoned Uranium Mine Cleanup on Navajo Nation

Oct 12, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a contract to assess abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it’ll include 30 mine sites. 

Workers scan for radiation at the Old Gulf Mine in the Eastern Region of the Navajo Nation.
Credit U.S. EPA

The $85 million contract was awarded to the engineering company Tetra Tech. As part of a 2015 legal settlement, it’ll fund the initial phase of what’s expected to be a years-long cleanup of some of the more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Tetra Tech will partner with Navajo Technical University to train tribal members in uranium waste cleanup. It’ll also start an internship program to give students technical work experience.

EPA crews grade and cover a uranium mine waste pile in 2009.
Credit U.S. EPA

“For decades, Navajo people have continued to suffer from the effects of uranium mining and today’s announcement will help to determine what type of cleanup efforts will be needed at abandoned uranium sites,” says Navajo Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates.  

There are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. During the Cold War, nearly 30 million tons of uranium was mined there for use in nuclear weapons.
Credit U.S. EPA

Abandoned uranium mines have been associated with elevated levels of radiation in drinking water and widespread health problems on the Navajo Nation.

Nearly 30 million tons of uranium was mined on and near the reservation for use in nuclear weapons during the Cold War.