News Releases from Region 09
Funds will be used to aid in abandoned uranium mine cleanups
SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Lands (NAML) program $888,523 to help assess and clean up abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Since 2016, the EPA has awarded $1.2 million to NAML.
Funds will provide technical support on cleanup plans, inspect abandoned uranium mines, assist EPA in removing contaminated soil, continue staff training on Superfund laws and share technical information with EPA and Navajo Nation EPA.
“Navajo AML’s staff of scientists and engineers are uniquely positioned to provide the expertise and perspective to address uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation,” said Mike Stoker, Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.
“This funding will provide an opportunity for us to continue our collaboration efforts with all parties involved in addressing abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. We are motivated to become more familiar with the Superfund cleanup process that is relatively new to some staffers,” said Madeline Roanhorse, Department Manager III for NAML. “We also hope to receive more funding throughout the years to take the leading role in project management work.”
NAML was established in 1988 through a cooperative agreement with the Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement (OSMRE). OSMRE forms cooperative partnerships with states and tribes to fulfill responsibilities under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In 1994, DOI authorized NAML to address physical hazards associated with abandoned uranium mines. Since then, NAML has successfully reclaimed hundreds of abandoned uranium mines across Navajo Nation trust land. Today, NAML is a formal part of the Navajo Nation government under the Division of Natural Resources.
NAML also works closely with U.S. Department of Energy’s Legacy Management Program to assist with the long-term management of several closed mill sites on the Navajo Nation. NAML is part of the governmental structure of the Navajo Nation, falling under the authority of the tribe’s Division of Natural Resources.
During the Cold War, 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined on or adjacent to the Navajo Nation, leaving more than 500 abandoned mines. Since 2008, EPA has awarded $11 million in grants to the Navajo Nation to address uranium contamination, conducted preliminary investigations at all the mines, remediated 52 contaminated structures, provided safe drinking water to 3,809 families in partnership with the Indian Health Service and performed cleanup or stabilization work at nine mines. In total, EPA has reached enforcement agreements and settlements valued at $1.7 billion to reduce the highest risks of radiation exposure to the Navajo people from abandoned uranium mines. As a result, funding is now available to assess and clean up 219 of the 523 abandoned uranium mines. Cleanup of the abandoned uranium mines is a closely coordinated effort between EPA, the Navajo Nation and other federal agencies.
Learn more about EPA’s efforts to address abandoned uranium mines on Navajo Nation
Learn more about Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands program