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.
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.
“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.
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.