Tag Archives: Radium-contaminated Soil

8/12/2011 EPA allows Chevron access to sensitive data on Navajo Nation – Chevron gains access to sensitive data on Navajo soil and water

8/12/2011 CENSORED NEWS: EPA allows Chevron access to sensitive data on Navajo Nation – Chevron gains access to sensitive data on Navajo soil and water: By Brenda Norrell: MARIANO LAKE, N.M. — The US EPA is allowing Chevron USA Inc., access to sensitive data on the Navajo Nation, by allowing Chevron to investigate uranium contamination. Chevron is one of the world’s primary exploiters and spoilers of Indigenous lands. Navajo President Ben Shelly, however, said allowing Chevron to carry out the investigation on the Navajo Nation is a good thing. President Shelly said, “On behalf of the communities in and around Mariano Lake, I extend my sincere appreciation for the agreement today between the U.S. EPA and Chevron. I look forward to the data that will be generated in this investigation, and I respectfully request U.S. EPA to understand our desires for the most protective clean up plans that will help restore harmony in our communities and homes.”

While the EPA purports to be cleaning up uranium contamination, at the same time, corporations are targeting the Navajo Nation for more uranium mining. By giving Chevron access to geological data, soil and water data, the Navajo Nation is giving away sensitive information used by corporations for future destructive industries, including mining and oil and gas drilling.

Corporations such as Chevron have a long history of gaining access to Indian lands under the guise of cleanup or research.

The US EPA selected Chevron to investigate radium-contaminated soil at the Mariano Lake Mine site, a former uranium mine located on the Navajo Nation near Gallup, N.M. The EPA said in a statement that the agreement is the result of an effort by the EPA and Navajo Nation to address contamination of uranium mining in the Navajo Nation.

The EPA was persuaded by Chevron’s offer of dollars.

Under the agreement, Chevron will conduct a radiological survey and sample radium-contaminated soil throughout the 31-acre Mariano Lake Mine site and surrounding area, including 10 residences and two nearby water wells. Chevron also agreed to pay EPA’s oversight costs, the EPA said in a statement.

Chevron’s fencing also concerns local Navajos.

EPA and the Navajo EPA will oversee field work, which will include construction of a fence and application of a sealant to contaminated soils where people live, work and play while the investigation is carried out. The order also requires Chevron to post signs, lock gates and prevent livestock from getting into areas of known contamination prior to cleanup, the EPA said.

The Mariano Lake Mine site operated as a uranium ore mine from approximately 1977 to 1982, and includes one 500-foot deep shaft, waste piles, and several surface ponds. Exposure to elevated levels of radium over a long period of time can result in anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, and cancer, especially bone cancer.

The EPA said that Chevron is the fifth “responsible party” that the EPA has required to take actions at former uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

Indigenous Peoples, however, have plenty of proof that Chevron is not a responsible party.

The EPA said the work with Navajo Nation is to identify and enforce against responsible parties is part of a 5-year plan to address the problem, which can be found at http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/

8/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Chevron to investigate uranium contamination at Mariano Lake Mine site

8/3/2011 Gallup Independent: Chevron to investigate uranium contamination at Mariano Lake Mine site By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with Chevron USA Inc. to investigate radium-contaminated soil at a former uranium mine in McKinley County. The Mariano Lake Mine, or “Old Gulf Mine,” was operated by Gulf Mineral Resources Co., from 1977 to 1982. Gulf previously held the mining leases before it merged with Chevron in 1985. The agreement is the latest result in an ongoing effort by U.S. EPA and Navajo Nation EPA to address the uranium mining legacy on the Navajo Nation. Of the 520 abandoned uranium mines identified through a federal five-year plan, Mariano Lake is the fourth one slated for time-critical interim removal action, “so that tells you it’s a high priority,” said Clancy Tenley of EPA Region 9’s Superfund Division. The other priority sites include Northeast Churchrock, Quivira and Skyline mines.

“It’s only a 31-acre site, so a relatively small footprint,” Andrew Bain, EPA remedial project manager, said Monday. “They had a single shaft that was 519 feet deep, so they were extracting ore below the water table.” The shaft was located in the eastern area of the site, while the western area reportedly was used as an evaporation pond for mine water.

“This one came up of interest not just because of the surface contamination that we learned about in the course of doing both site-assessment work and removal assessment work, but also because of the production wells nearby in Mariano Lake community.” EPA has confirmed the production wells are fine but wants to test wells in the vicinity of the mine just to make sure there’s no contamination that could impact the production wells in the future, he said.

Under the agreement, Chevron will conduct a radiological survey and sample radium-contaminated soil throughout the site and surrounding area, including 10 residences and two nearby water wells. “We’re looking at the roads, the soils atop the old mining areas as well as nearby,” and a parking area of concern, Bain said. “After we do the characterization work then we’ll have a pretty good feel for where the areas of contamination are.”

In July 2008, EPA conducted a preliminary gamma radiation activity assessment on portions of the site and detected elevated readings, which prompted further assessment work. From around November 2009 through May 2010, EPA conducted gamma surveys at nine home-sites and did additional soil scans of the mine area. Elevated readings of gamma radiation were found at the site and radium-226 in some of the surface soils.

Exposure to elevated levels of radium over a long period of time can result in anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, and cancer – especially bone cancer, according to EPA.

“We’ve worked over the last couple years through our Emergency Response Office to reduce the impacts posed by those soils. There was a family there who had their trailer moved and cleaned up as part of our earlier effort,” Bain said.

U.S. EPA and Navajo EPA will oversee field work at the site, which will include construction of a fence and application of a sealant to contaminated soils where people live, work and play – similar to activities which took place at Northeast Churchrock, Quivira and Skyline mines – while the investigation is carried out. The order also requires Chevron to post signs, lock gates and prevent livestock from getting into areas of known contamination prior to cleanup. Chevron visited the site last week along with U.S. EPA oversight.

Navajo EPA is conducting gamma scans and soil sampling, which is the first step in assessing potential impacts from the mine site and any requisite cleanup action.

“We’re interested in looking at the extent of contamination in the surface soils and figure out how deep that contamination extends, both vertically and laterally. We just wanted to make sure that based on their operations they weren’t releasing radionuclides or other heavy metals that would have gotten into nearby drainages or other soils adjacent to the mine area,” Bain said.

The Mariano Lake site underwent reclamation similar to the Quivira Mine in Churchrock under Bureau of Land Management oversight back in the 1990s, Bain said, however, BLM doesn’t have the same standards as EPA in terms of looking at environmental releases. “Their focus is preventing people from falling in shafts and being right on top of these mine wastes. We’re looking at more of the diffuse risks based on long-term exposure to the wastes.”

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said he is looking forward to the data that will be generated from the EPA investigation. “I respectfully request U.S. EPA to understand our desires for the most protective cleanup plans that will help restore harmony in our communities and homes.”

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for the Pacific Southwest Region, stated in a press release that EPA is “working to make sure that every responsible party takes the steps needed to protect Navajo families from radioactive contamination.”

Chevron, which has agreed to pay oversight costs, is the fifth responsible party that EPA has required to take action at former uranium mines on the Navajo Navajo. A Removal Site Evaluation report is expected to be completed by Jan. 31, 2012. Based on results of the evaluation, a second removal action would begin in April 2012 if necessary.

Information: http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/navajo-nation/