Latest: Obama administration to continue Navajo Nation uranium cleanup

The EPA has already spent $100 million to remediate decades of mining.

  • Soil tackifier solution is applied to the dirt around an abandoned uranium mine in Thoreau, New Mexico, to reduce erosion on the contaminated site.

    Environmental Protection Agency

In 2005, the Navajo Nation banned uranium mining on its 27,000-square-mile reservation. Nearly 4 million tons of uranium ore had been extracted since 1944, seriously contaminating tribal lands. The toxic legacy has left tribal members battling respiratory diseases, as well as liver, lung and breast cancers, and many families still await compensation (“On cancer’s trail,” HCN, 5/26/08).

In early July, the Obama administration signed an agreement funding Phase II of the Environmental Protection Agency’s ongoing effort to clean up the reservation’s abandoned uranium mines. The 16 mines that pose the greatest risk to human health will be remediated, and 30 others will be evaluated for future cleanup. The EPA has already spent $100 million to remediate 47 homes and screen more than 500 mines since 2008, and estimates for future cleanup costs extend into the hundreds of millions. 

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