10/8/2011 Udall urges continued cleanup of area’s legacy uranium sites By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., received commitments Thursday from three federal agencies that they will continue to work together to clean up uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation. Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy, and U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission testified on the status of cleanup operations at legacy uranium mining and milling operations. The testimony was presented during a federal oversight hearing before the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Children’s Health and Environmental Responsibility, which Udall chairs. The senator stressed that each agency continue ongoing cleanup projects and commit to providing necessary funding for the Five-Year Plan for the Navajo Nation begun in 2007 and a Five-Year Plan begun last year for the Grants Mining District.
“Recently, the Navajo Nation informed EPA that they intend to request a second five-year review plan,” James Woolford, director of Superfund Remediation and Technology Innovation, said. “The agency plans to work with the Navajo Nation and our colleagues to put together that plan over the next year.” EPA is the lead federal agency for the cleanup plan.
EPA has been obligating about $12 million per year for Navajo cleanup efforts. However, the federal government is operating under a continuing resolution so EPA cannot commit to a particular figure for the upcoming year, he said.
David Geiser, director of the Department of Energy’s Office of Legacy Management, said DOE contributes about $4 million for the four legacy uranium mill sites it monitors on Navajo. In 2009, DOE received a $5 million special appropriation for cleanup of the Highway 160 site outside of Tuba City. That work was completed in August, he said.
Udall applauded EPA for its recent announcement of an approved plan to clean up the Northeast Churchrock Mine, the highest-priority abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation, and also raised concerns about Tuba City contamination.
“Since 1995 there have been more than 35 studies conducted on the Tuba City Open Dump,” Udall said. He asked whether they knew the source of contamination or whether there was a cleanup plan.
Woolford said the Hopi Tribe submitted a study to EPA in August which concluded there was groundwater contamination adjacent to the dump. “We’re currently reviewing it and we have plans to meet with the tribe at the end of October to go over the study.”
He said EPA has an enforceable agreement with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to conduct a comprehensive investigation and feasibility study to ascertain whether the dump is contaminating the groundwater. “The groundwater is contaminated. Everyone knows that. We are not 100 percent sure of the source,” he said.
“Does the Tuba City Open Dump site pose a threat to drinking water for the Navajo Nation or the Hopi Tribe?” Udall asked.
“Yes, we believe it does,” Woolford said, however a cleanup remedy is contingent on the outcome of the BIA study.
Geiser said both Navajo and Hopi believe mill tailing material was disposed of in the open dump and that it is the source of the uranium contamination, but he said there is no evidence to support that claim. “There have been over 200 borings taken of the open dump, and none of them found mill material,” he said.
DOE also doesn’t believe there is a hydrological connection between the Tuba City uranium mill tailings disposal cell and the Moenkopi village wells, Geiser said.
Udall asked for further details on the Northeast Churchrock cleanup and a potential time-line. Woolford said they ultimately chose “a pretty simple remedy,” which is to move more than 870,000 cubic yards of contaminated waste rock and more than 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil “almost across the street” to the United Nuclear Corp./General Electric Superfund site.
Beginning this fall, community members will be offered relocation opportunities, according to Woolford. Clancy Tenley of EPA Region 9 said Monday that residents could take a temporary move-out of their house during the cleanup, “but that would be in a hotel for potentially years,” or they could take advantage of an EPA “cash-out” offer for a permanent residence of comparable value.
Geiser said EPA approached DOE about two years ago with the idea of combining mine waste with the mill waste. “For the last 10 to 12 years, the department has agreed to accept non-mill waste in the disposal cells under certain conditions,” he said. Northeast Churchrock would be the “single largest volume” of that type material to be put in a disposal cell.
NRC’s Weber said they will prepare an environmental assessment to support a revision to the reclamation plan for UNC’s tailings impoundment and there will be opportunity for public comment on the UNC license amendment. Barring any legal challenges or glitches, cleanup could be done by 2018 or 2019 with DOE’s Legacy Management as the ultimate overseer.
9/29/2011 U.S. EPA selects $70 million remedy for groundwater contamination removal at Omega Chemical Site
For Immediate Release: September 29, 2011 Contact: Francisco Arcaute, Cell (213) 798-1404 , email@example.com U.S. EPA selects $70 million remedy for groundwater contamination removal at Omega Chemical Site Preventing Spread of 4.5 mile Contamination Plume is Primary Goal SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it has selected an interim remedy to capture and treat groundwater contaminated by high concentrations of industrial solvents at the Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund Site in Whittier, Calif. This cleanup is estimated to cost nearly $70 million over the life of the treatment system.
EPA selected this interim remedy to prevent the contaminated plume of groundwater from spreading further and threatening drinking water resources. Once the groundwater has been extracted and treated, it is expected to be used for drinking water for the surrounding community. EPA successfully extracts, treats, and provides for drinking more than 100 million gallons of water every day at several other Superfund sites in Southern California.
“EPA has taken a critical step forward at the Omega Chemical site to reverse the damage done to a vital resource in Southern California,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Drinking water aquifers are under a heavy strain, and this decision ensures their preservation, and the protection of local residents.”
Contamination from the former Omega Chemical facility on Whittier Boulevard has created a plume of contaminated groundwater containing trichlorethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), freons, and other solvents that extends approximately four and one-half miles to the south/southwest of the site. The plume lies beneath a large commercial/industrial area, and numerous facilities in this area have also contributed to the regional groundwater contamination.
The treated groundwater will meet or surpass drinking water standards, which the EPA expects will be provided to local water purveyors to serve in the surrounding community. The remedy also allows for reinjection of treated groundwater if agreements with water purveyors cannot be reached in a timely manner.
This is EPA’s second Record of Decision at the Omega Chemical Corporation Superfund Site. The first focused on contaminated groundwater and soils at the former facility, and is being implemented by a collection of private companies called Omega Chemical Site PRP Organized Group (OPOG).
For more information on the Omega Chemical site, including a copy of the Record of Decision, go to the EPA web site: www.epa.gov/region09/OmegaChemical
Public News Service: Arizonans Call for Canyon Mining Moratorium PHOENIX, Ariz. – Hundreds of thousands of Americans, including 36 Arizona groups, have weighed in to support a federal proposal for a 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims on 1 million acres near Grand Canyon National Park. A public comment period has just ended. The Obama administration is expected to decide the issue in the next few weeks. Lynn Hamilton is the executive director of Grand Canyon River Guides, a nonprofit group of professional river guides and individuals who love the Grand Canyon. She warns that runoff from existing uranium mines has already polluted several rivers, creeks and springs within the national park. “It’s really alarming for people to feel like the areas that they’re visiting and recreating in, which they consider to be wilderness areas, are tainted in this way.”
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and 62 other members of Congress have sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar urging him to approve the proposed 20-year moratorium. Several local governments and Native American tribal governments have also endorsed the proposed mining ban. The industry maintains that modern mining techniques prevent environmental damage.
Hamilton says Native Americans living in northern Arizona have been especially hard-hit by water pollution resulting from uranium mining.
“It’s really a deadly history. Many Native Americans have died from drinking tainted water or from using that water to sustain their livestock and crops when it’s contaminated.”
Hamilton also expresses concern about the potential effect on tourism from uranium mining claims that are “right on the doorstep” of the Grand Canyon.
“This is an area that draws 5 million visitors each year. It contributes almost $700 million annually to the regional economy.”
Grand Canyon tourism supports some 12,000 full-time jobs, she adds.