The U.S. Department of Energy is calling for public comment on its plans to clean up a 130-acre pile of uranium tailings and contaminated soils currently leaching ammonia and radioactive materials into groundwater — and the Colorado River — just three miles upstream from Moab, Utah.
The Atlas Minerals Corporation had operated the Moab uranium mill
from 1956 to 1984. In 1998, the company declared bankruptcy,
leaving the Energy Department with responsibility for the site
(HCN, 1/31/00: Mountain of mine waste may move after all).
Now, the primary debate is over whether the tailings pile
should be stabilized, covered, and left in place, or transported to
one of three proposed disposal areas within an 85-mile radius of
the site and capped. The cost of hauling over 9 million cubic yards
of waste off-site — by either truck, train or pipeline
— would add $3 million to $5 million to the price tag.
The Energy Department’s draft environmental impact
statement proposes pumping and treating the contaminated
groundwater that flows into the river, to protect endangered fish.
It also addresses removing contaminants from 98 Moab homes and
businesses that had used the tailings for construction or fill
The project’s planning process is expected
to last until 2011, and subsequent remediation activities could
take up to 10 years. The Moab draft EIS can be found at http://gj.em.doe.gov/moab/.
The deadline for comments is Feb. 18.