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EPA Will Assess Abandoned Uranium Mines on Navajo Nation

Environmental Protection Agency
The Church Rock Uranium Mill in New Mexico breached its dam in 1979, causing over 1,000 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and 93 million gallons of radioactive tailings to flow into the Puerco River.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded an $85 million contract for an initial assessment of 30 abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation. During the Cold War era, some 30 million tons of uranium ore was removed from the area, and hundreds of contaminated sites remain. The contractor, Tetra Tech, Inc., will partner with Navajo Technical University and local businesses to train Diné people to do assessment and cleanup work. In a release, Council Delegate Kee Allen Begay, Jr., who represents many of the affected communities, hailed the announcement but added, “there are still people living with health issues every day due to abandoned mines and there are still many mines that present danger to our people.”

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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