Tag Archives: Uranium Contamination

11/14/2011 Navajo Times: 5-year uranium cleanup only the beginning

11/14/2011 Navajo Times: 5-year uranium cleanup only the beginning By Alastair Lee Bitsoi” Farmington – More than 100 people gathered here Tuesday (Nov. 8) to hear updates from federal officials on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s five-year multi-agency plan to address the health and environmental impacts of uranium development on the Navajo Nation. Called the Navajo Uranium Contamination Stakeholder Workshop, it is a three-day summit held to update tribal officials and impacted Navajo community members on the progress of the plan, which is nearing completion.

Jared Blumenfeld, administrator for EPA Region 9, said the plan has been effective, as demonstrated by the large-scale cleanup at the Skyline Mine in Monument Valley, Utah.

“This is an incredibly effective return on the dollar,” Blumenfeld said. “It brings in jobs and cleanup from the Cold War.”

In addition to the cleanup at Monument Valley, Blumenfeld said both USEPA and the Navajo Nation EPA have screened 683 structures for contamination, completing the demolition and excavation of 34 structures and 12 residential yards. They also rebuilt 14 homes, he said.

Over the summer, USEPA also announced that it would begin cleanup operations at the largest abandoned uranium mine on the Navajo Nation – the Northeast Church Rock Mine – and investigate possible soil contamination at the former Gulf Mineral Mine in Mariano Lake, N.M.

Also involved in the five-year cleanup are the Centers for Disease Control’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, IHS, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and U.S. Department of Energy, all of which provided updates on their progress.

Their accomplishments include sampling 250 unregulated water sources, identifying and marking 28 that exceed federal drinking water standards for radiation, and funding $20 million worth of water projects to supply up to 386 homes that lack piped drinking water.

Also of importance is the CDC-funded Navajo Birth Cohort Study, which is being conducted by the University of New Mexico.

The three-year study will look at pregnancy outcomes and child development in relation to uranium exposure among Navajo women and infants.

11/8/2011 FP congratulates Robert Sabie, WWU – EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge

Forgotten People congratulates Robert Sabie, Huxley College of the Environment, Western Washington University.  11/8/2011 EPA Announces Winners of Apps for the Environment Challenge WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced the winners of its Apps for the Environment challenge, which encouraged new and innovative uses of EPA’s data to create apps that address environmental and public health issues.  Developers from across the country created apps with information about everything from energy efficient light bulbs to local air quality. A few even developed games to help people learn environmental facts.

“Innovators from across the country have used information to help people protect our health and the environment,” said Malcolm Jackson, EPA’s Chief Information Officer. “The winners of the Apps for the Environment challenge demonstrate that it’s possible to transform data from EPA and elsewhere into applications that people can use.”

The five winners are:

·      Winner, Best Overall App: Light Bulb Finder by Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of EcoHatchery, Milwaukee, Wis.

  • Runner Up, Best Overall App: Hootroot by Matthew Kling of Brighter Planet, Shelburne, Vt.
  • Winner, Best Student App: EarthFriend by Ali Hasan and Will Fry of Differential Apps and Fry Development Company, Mount Pleasant High School in Mount Pleasant, N.C. and J.H. Rose High School in Greenville, N.C.
  • Runner Up, Best Student App: Environmental Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University, Bellingham, Wash.
  • Popular Choice Award: CG Search by Suresh Ganesan of Cognizant Technology Solutions, South Plainfield, N.J.

Winners will demonstrate their submissions at the Apps for the Environment forum today in Arlington, Va. The forum will include panels on business, technology, and government initiatives, breakout sessions by EPA’s program offices, upcoming developer challenges and future directions about environmental applications.

All contestants will retain intellectual property rights over their submissions, though winners agree that their submissions will be available on the EPA website for free use and download by the public for a period of one year following the announcement of the winners.

More information about the winners and other submissions: http://appsfortheenvironment.challenge.gov/submissions

More information about EPA’s Apps for the Environment forum: http://www.epa.gov/appsfortheenvironment/forum.html

CONTACT:

Latisha Petteway (News Media Only)

petteway.latisha@epa.gov

202-564-3191

202-564-4355


You can view or update your subscriptions or e-mail address at any time on your Subscriber Preferences Page. All you will need is your e-mail address. If you have any questions or problems e-mail support@govdelivery.com for assistance.

This service is provided to you at no charge by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

10/8/2011 The Economist: Radiation in Japan Hot spots and blind spots – The mounting human costs of Japan’s nuclear disaster

10/8/2011 The Economist: Radiation in Japan Hot spots and blind spots – The mounting human costs of Japan’s nuclear disaster: CREST the hill into the village of Iitate, and the reading on a radiation dosimeter surges eightfold—even with the car windows shut. “Don’t worry, I’ve been coming here for months and I’m still alive,” chuckles Chohei Sato, chief of the village council, as he rolls down the window and inhales cheerfully. He pulls off the road, gets out of the car and buries the dosimeter in the grass. The reading doubles again.

Iitate is located 45km (28 miles) from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant hit by a tsunami on March 11th this year. In the mountains above the town, the forests are turning the colour of autumn. But their beauty is deceptive. Every time a gust of wind blows, Mr Sato says it shakes invisible particles of radioactive caesium off the trees and showers them over the village. Radiation levels in the hills are so high that villagers dare not go near them. Mr Sato cannot bury his father’s bones, which he keeps in an urn in his abandoned farmhouse, because of the dangers of going up the hill to the graveyard.

Iitate had the misfortune to be caught by a wind that carried radioactive particles (including plutonium) much farther than anybody initially expected after the nuclear disaster. Almost all the 6,000 residents have been evacuated, albeit belatedly, because it took the government months to decide that some villages outside a 30km radius of the plant warranted special attention. Now it offers an extreme example of how difficult it will be to recover from the disaster.

That is mainly because of the enormous spread of radiation. Recently the government said it needed to clear about 2,419 square kilometres of contaminated soil—an area larger than greater Tokyo—that received an annual radiation dose of at least five millisieverts, or over 0.5 microsieverts an hour. That covered an area far beyond the official 30km restriction zone (see map). Besides pressure- hosing urban areas, this would involve removing about 5cm of topsoil from local farms as well as all the dead leaves in caesium-laden forests.

However, Iitate’s experience suggests the government may be underestimating the task. Villagers have removed 5cm of topsoil from one patch of land, but because radioactive particles continue to blow from the surrounding trees, the level of radiation remains high—about one microsievert an hour—even if lower than in nearby areas. Without cutting down the forests, Mr Sato reckons there will be a permanent risk of contamination. So far, nobody has any idea where any contaminated soil will be dumped.

The second problem is children’s health. On September 30th the government lifted an evacuation advisory warning to communities within a 20-30km radius of the plant. The aim was partly to show that the authorities were steadily bringing the crippled reactors under control.

But these areas are still riddled with radiation hot spots, including schools and public parks, which will need to be cleaned before public confidence is restored. Parents say they are particularly concerned about bringing their children back because the health effects of radiation on the young are so unclear. What is more, caesium particles tend to lurk in the grass, which means radiation is more of a risk at toddler height than for adults. In Iitate, Mihori Takahashi, a mother of two, “believes only half of what the doctors say” and says she never wants to bring her children back. That, in itself, may be a curse. “The revival of this town depends on the children returning,” says Mr Sato.

And even if people return, Mr Sato worries how they will make a living. These are farming villages, but it will take years to remove the stigma attached to food grown in Fukushima, he reckons. He is furious with Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the plant, for failing to acknowledge the long-term impacts of the disaster. He says it is a way of scrimping on compensation payouts.

One way to help overcome these problems would be to persuade people to accept relaxed safety standards. A government panel is due to propose lifting the advisory dose limit above one millisievert per year. This week in Tokyo, Wade Allison, a physics professor at Oxford University, argued that Japan’s dose limit could safely be raised to 100 millisieverts, based on current health statistics. Outside Mr Sato’s house, however, a reading of the equivalent of 150 millisieverts a year left your correspondent strangely reluctant to inhale.

10/13/2011 Gallup Independent: Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining

10/13/2011 Tribe: Public lands threatened by copper, uranium mining By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – Representatives of the San Carlos Apache Tribe received support Tuesday from Navajo Nation Council delegates in their opposition to a bill which would allow a subsidiary of foreign mining giants Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton to acquire more than 2,400 acres in Tonto National Forest for a massive underground copper mine. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.-1, is sponsor of H.R. 1904: Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act of 2011. The land exchange would require Congress to lift a decades old mining ban within the 760 acres of federal lands known as Oak Flat, which were set aside from mining in 1955 by executive order of the Eisenhower administration.

Impacts from the mining operation will result in the “wholesale desecration of the sacred site and traditional cultural property that is encompassed by the Oak Flat, Apache Leap, and Gaan Canyon area,” San Carlos Apache Chairman Terry Rambler stated in written testimony submitted in June to the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

“Chich’il Bildagoteel,” or Oak Flat, is home to all powerful Mountain Spirits, or Gaan, and a place of ancient settlements and burial sites. Because the Apache people’s relationship to the land is intertwined with their religious and cultural identity, it is believed “the potential harms to be visited upon this holy place threaten the cultural extinction of the Apache.”

Steve Titla, San Carlos general counsel, and Susan B. Montgomery, special legal counsel to the tribe, presented Chairman Rambler’s concerns to the Nabik’iyati’ Committee. Rambler was in D.C. to meet with Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., on the mining issue to ask him not to hold a hearing on the bill when it comes to his committee, Montgomery said.

“We should be sending a strong message to Representative Gosar, saying, ‘You’re not going to have our vote if you continue pursuing this bill,’” Shiprock Delegate Russell Begaye said. He suggested that Navajo and other Arizona tribes make that same proclamation. “I think those types of action are in order.”

Gosar also drew criticism Wednesday when he and Sen. John McCain along with other Arizona and Utah congressional leaders introduced the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, which would bar the Department of the Interior from withdrawing approximately 1 million acres surrounding the Grand Canyon from mining consideration for the next 20 years, as proposed by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in June.

The effect of the bill would be to allow uranium and other mining operations to go forward as soon as possible.

“Senator McCain and Congressman Gosar have turned their backs on thousands of constituents living in northern Arizona who oppose uranium mining,” Roger Clark of Grand Canyon Trust said.

“Havasupai object to their sole source of water being contaminated. All five of the Native nations surrounding the Grand Canyon have banned uranium mining due to its lethal history in the region. And hundreds of businesses, local governments, ranchers, and sporting groups support Secretary Salazar’s proposed ban on new claims because it protects their livelihoods. Who are these elected representatives protecting, other than foreign-owned nuclear industries?” he said.

In respect to copper mine, Begaye said since the Navajo Nation deals with BHP Billiton, they should send the company a resolution or letter to say, “We are opposing your desecration mining in this area.” The bill allows for the company to voluntarily withdraw from the land exchange, effectively terminating the land withdrawal, he said.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the Forest Service would convey the 2,400 acres to Resolution Copper in exchange for company-owned land of an equivalent value. Of the company land, about 1,200 acres would become part of the National Forest System while about 4,200 acres would be administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The bill also directs the Forest Service to sell around 550 acres to the town of Superior, Ariz. Proceeds from the sale, estimated at roughly $1 million, would be spent to acquire other lands. Begaye said purchase of the land by the Nations could deter part of the proposed action.

Resolution Copper has circulated various job figures related to the mining project, however, “The job number changes as often as I change my suit,” Montgomery said. “We do think the jobs would be minimal at the location and minimal for the residents of Arizona.”

Montgomery said it is speculated that Resolution will employ a fully automated “mine of the future” technology, similar to what Rio Tinto recently launched in Australia, which allows it to control 11 mines with robotized drilling, automated haul trucks and driverless ore trains from an operations center 800 miles away.

“We are speculating because they keep a lot of this very close to the vest,” she said. “It will probably be run out of somewhere in Utah where Rio Tinto’s operations are. This is not going to be jobs to benefit the local people very much.”

In the same vein, Arizona Rep. Raúl Grijalva challenged Gosar, McCain and other Arizona mining bill co-sponsors “to explain why they support polluting the Grand Canyon area for the sake of mining company profits that rarely stay in Arizona and in some cases flow directly overseas.”

“The only people who support this are mining industry lobbyists and a handful of lawmakers ready to carry their water,” Grijalva said. “It’s cynical to tell the people of Arizona in a down economy that this bill will help them when we all know these jobs won’t be local, the profits will go out of state or overseas, and the uranium will be exported to the highest bidder.”

Titla said Begaye’s idea of sending a message to Gosar was a great idea. “I think that we can make a renewed effort to tribes to send that kind of message to Representative Gosar because in the recent redistricting, the San Carlos Tribe stood with all the other tribes in the state legislative district. I think that if those maps are passed by the Department of Justice … once we get that done we can stand together and send that kind of message.”

Thirteen tribes in addition to Navajo oppose H.R. 1904 or its predecessor bills, including Hopi, Zuni, Hualapai, Jicarilla and White Mountain Apache nations. Resolution has sought passage of the bill since around 2005.

Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize, who was asked to sponsor a supporting resolution, said, “This issue is very, very important to us. As you heard, we are also fighting for the San Francisco Peaks, Dooko’oo’sliid … We stand on what we believe, and we believe in all our sacred sites.”

10/10/2011 NY Times: After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?

10/10/2011 NY Times: After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future? By STEPHANIE COOKE: A couple of months after the catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant March 11, an American nuclear expert posed an interesting question. “The post-Fukushima public sentiment is surprisingly low-key isn’t it? What a difference between this event and TMI or Chernobyl,” he wrote in an e-mail, using an abbreviation for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. “What do you think is going on? Why so quiet?”

I was not convinced. What he said was certainly true in the United States, but the accident had a profound effect in Germany, China and several other countries, serving as a fearful reminder of what can go wrong with nuclear power plants. Phase-outs were the order of the day in Germany (where Chancellor Angela Merkel also demanded immediate shutdowns of eight of the country’s oldest reactors) and Switzerland. China suspended approvals for new reactors pending a safety review, which is now reportedly completed. This has resulted in a downward revision of China’s unofficial pre-Fukushima goal to install 86 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020. It now looks like that will be set around 60 gigawatts (up from around 12 currently) or just a little higher.

Italy said no to new reactors for the second time, ending a relatively brief flirtation with nuclear planners after a long post-Chernobyl freeze. “I think there is now less than 0.01 percent chance for nuclear in Italy,” said Luigi De Paoli, energy economy professor at the Bocconi University in Milan, according to Reuters.

Taiwan appears on the brink of some kind of phase-out involving four reactors, although it is likely to allow a recently constructed fifth unit to operate. Venezuela and Israel, both countries that had harbored nuclear power ambitions, decided they could do without after all. “I think we’ll go for the gas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN. “I think we’ll skip the nuclear.”

In Japan, of course, the effect was most dramatic. Thirteen units were automatically “scrammed” when the earthquake struck, and a 14th was already out for maintenance. With 15 others offline because of previous quakes or for mandatory inspection and refueling, the country’s fleet of 54 operating reactors was cut to 25. In May, the government ordered a shutdown of three additional units (one of which had already been down for maintenance) at Hamaoka, situated in a particularly vulnerable seismic zone near Tokyo.

The nuclear “capacity factor” — a measure of how much electricity reactors generate as a percentage of what they could provide — had dropped precipitously, from 71 percent in February to 51 percent in May, but it would plunge even further in subsequent months.

Facing the prospect of broad electricity failures over the summer, Japan’s leadership did not dare order more plants shut down, but it hardly needed to. Because of the requirement for inspections every 13 months, more reactors were taken offline, one after the other. Now only 11 are operating. (The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum stopped publishing monthly capacity factors after July, when the figure stood at 34 percent, with 19 units operating.) While there certainly were electricity shortages, Japan survived the summer without the extensive blackouts that had been predicted.

Normally the reactors would have been restarted within several weeks of shutdown, but these are not normal times in Japan. Restarts require approvals from local and prefectural governments, and these have not been received since the disaster. The 11 reactors still in operation are due to go down for maintenance between now and next September, and that in theory could leave Japan with zero nuclear-generated electricity — although that is unlikely, given the pro-nuclear sentiment of governors in some prefectures and the intense pressure for restarts from Tokyo.

However, the Japanese government has ordered a gradual phase-out of the country’s reactors, reversing a previous policy of increasing nuclear’s share of the generating mix to 50 percent by 2030. (Japan’s reactors were generally credited with supplying about 30 percent of the electricity mix, but the figure was debatable, given the frequency of power failures even before Fukushima.) “To build new reactors is unrealistic, and we will decommission reactors at the end of their life spans,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in his first policy speech Sept. 2.

Despite this relatively dismal outlook for nuclear energy, the London-based World Nuclear Association predicts a 30 percent increase in global nuclear generating capacity over the next decade; it foresees 79 more reactors online by 2020, for a total of 514, even taking Fukushima into account. And it sees a 66 percent increase by 2030, with capacity additions in China, India, South Korea and Russia outnumbering projected declines in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Curiously, it assumes Japan will restart all but the six units at Fukushima Daiichi and continue to build new reactors to replace aging ones, for a net number of operating reactors in 2030 more or less the same as before Fukushima.

While the nuclear association is obviously bullish, it is less so than it was in its last forecast two years ago. And the projected increase would only keep nuclear energy treading water. As a percentage of global generation it would account for just 14 percent, the same amount the association says it currently contributes. (Other experts say the figure is lower.)

In the United States, currently home to the world’s largest reactor fleet, only one proposed project, in Texas, was effectively canceled after Fukushima, but it had been teetering for more than a year since its largest backer, NRG Energy, decided to pull the plug. Plans for about 30 new reactors in the United States already had been whittled down to just four, despite the promise of large subsidies and President Barack Obama’s support of nuclear power, which he reaffirmed after Fukushima.

Perhaps most interesting to watch will be France, whose dependence on nuclear energy is the highest in the world, with nearly 80 percent of the country’s electricity produced by 58 reactors, a fleet second in size only to that of the United States.

A poll by the Institut Français d’Opinion Publique in May, published in Le Journal du Dimanche, found 77 percent of the public favored some kind of nuclear phase-out. That is not completely surprising, given past polls showing French opinion toward nuclear energy to be lukewarm. What is clear is that Fukushima is prompting a major rethinking of the country’s energy policies and that the nuclear issue promises to be a big factor in the presidential election next year.

Against this background, it is not surprising that in the World Nuclear Association’s midcase scenario, both the United States and France show a gradual decline in the number of operating reactors over the next two decades.

It has been evident for some time that nuclear energy’s future increasingly lies in Asia. Whatever the reasons for the muted response to Fukushima, the European phase-outs prompted by the tragedy would make this trend even more pronounced. But even in Asia, a nuclear future is no certain thing. Twenty-five years apart, Chernobyl and Fukushima were events that nuclear plant designers assumed would never happen. Any further major accidents could spell the industry’s doom.

Stephanie Cooke is editor of the Energy Intelligence Group’s Nuclear Intelligence Weekly and author of “In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age.”

10/13/2011 ALERT: McCain Bill Will Open 1 Million Grand Canyon Acres to Uranium Mining – Take Action

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity ALERT: Take action to tell your senators to oppose all provisions blocking a drilling ban. Today GOP lawmakers led by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) announced legislation that would open one million acres of public lands forming Grand Canyon National Park’s watershed to new uranium mining. The bill would overturn an existing moratorium on new mining and mining claims. “It is unconscionable that Senator McCain and Representatives Flake and Franks are seeking to undermine protections for Grand Canyon and its watershed and showing so little regard for the people of Arizona, including all of those who expressed strong support for protecting these lands from uranium mining and the pollution it produces,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director, Sierra Club – Grand Canyon Chapter.

The Grand Canyon and four corners region still suffer the pollution legacy of past mining. American Indian tribes in the region – Havasupai, Hualapai, Kaibab-Paiute, Navajo, and Hopi – have banned uranium mining on their lands. Water in Horn Creek, located in Grand Canyon National Park just below the old Orphan uranium mine, exhibits dissolved uranium concentrations over 10 times the health-based standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency for drinking water, while groundwater sumps below old mines north of Grand Canyon have measured dissolved uranium more than 1000 times allowable for drinking water standards. “Neither mining corporations, lawmakers nor public agencies can guarantee that uranium mining wouldn’t further contaminate aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s springs and creeks. Such pollution—as we see in Horn Creek today–would be impossible to clean up,” said Taylor McKinnon with the Center for Biological Diversity. “A decade ago Senator McCain was a defender of Grand Canyon. Today he’s one its greatest threats.”

10/13/2011 Center for Biological Diversity Take Action: McCain Bill Would Open 1 Million Grand Canyon Acres to Uranium Mining:The world-famous Grand Canyon is under attack again — this time from politicians in Arizona. Republican lawmakers led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) proposed legislation Wednesday to open 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon to new uranium mining. The bill would overturn a temporary ban on new uranium mining — a ban the Center for Biological Diversity’s been fighting to extend — and block Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recent proposal to keep the ban in place for the next 20 years.

Despite widespread public support for the ban and more than 100,000 comments from Center supporters this summer, McCain and his friends in the mining industry want to allow the damaging plunder of the iconic Grand Canyon landscape for uranium. Sadly, the region still suffers the pollution legacy of past mining. The Havasupai, Hualapai, Kaibab-Paiute, Navajo and Hopi have all banned uranium mining on their lands, and for good reason: Groundwater below old mines north of the Canyon has measured dissolved uranium at more than 1,000 times what’s allowable for drinking-water standards.

We’re gearing up to fight McCain and his cronies to make sure the Grand Canyon’s future is focused on pristine landscapes, not polluted ones.

10/25/2011 EPA Stakeholder Meeting on Uranium Legacy Contamination Issues featuring EPA Assistant Administrator, Mathy Stanislis

10/25/2011 EPA Stakeholder Meeting on Uranium Legacy Contamination Issues at The Albuquerque Marriott featuring EPA Assistant Administrator, Mathy Stanislis

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining

10/12/2011 The GOP-led bill opens up Grand Canyon area to mining: By FELICIA FONSECA The Salt Lake Tribune, The Associated Press: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. • A group of Republican lawmakers is renewing an effort to open up 1 million acres near the Grand Canyon to new mining claims. Legislation announced Wednesday would prevent the Interior Department from extending a temporary ban on the filing of new mining claims that expires in December. The group said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s intention to set aside the land for 20 years would eliminate hundreds of potential jobs, create a de-facto wilderness area and unravel decades of responsible resource development.

“At a time when we are desperate for jobs and economic growth, this administration continues to do everything in its power to implement the job-killing policies of fringe environmental groups,” said Arizona Rep. David Schweikert. “This withdrawal is not so much a protection of the Grand Canyon but a governmental land grab of economically fertile mining land.”

Salazar enacted a two-year ban in July 2009 but extended it by six months earlier this year to give the U.S. Bureau of Land Management more time to study the economic and environmental effects of mining. Interior officials said Wednesday that any claims about jobs losses are false.

Should any of the land be withdrawn, mining companies would need to prove they have valid existing rights to those claims before mining could occur. According to the BLM’s draft environmental study, 11 mines could open over the next 20 years under Salazar’s proposal. Without a withdrawal, up to 30 mines could be developed. The difference in the number of jobs under the two scenarios would be 71, the BLM said.

Other proposals include withdrawing either 300,000 or 650,000 acres from any new claims. The final study is due out later this month.

“Interior is considering many factors in evaluating the issue, including the economic benefits of Grand Canyon National Park and the potential impacts on the park of expanding mining nearby,” said Interior spokesman Adam Fetcher.

Efforts in Congress to prohibit or allow mining on the same acreage have made little headway. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., added a rider to an Interior appropriations bill earlier this year to end the ban, and Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., introduced legislation last year to keep Interior from withdrawing any land. The two were joined by the rest of Arizona’s Republican delegation, and lawmakers from other Western states in supporting the latest effort.

In a letter to Salazar, the lawmakers said they share in a desire to protect the Grand Canyon from adverse environmental impacts but don’t believe shutting out mining companies is the answer, particularly in an area known for high-grade uranium ore. They said a federal law that designated wilderness areas near the Grand Canyon provides a good balance for mining and resource protection.

McCain said a full withdrawal of the 1 million acres of federal land “will raise significant questions for future wilderness bills if agreements to accommodate responsible land uses are neither genuine nor enduring.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., has been on the opposite side of the lawmakers, advocating for a permanent withdrawal of the land from new mining claims. A bill he sponsored to do just that routinely has stalled.

“Selling this as a jobs bill for the future and brushing the environmental damage under the rug isn’t going to fly with voters,” he said of the Republicans’ move. “The public overwhelmingly supported Secretary Salazar’s announcement during the comment period, and the public supports it today. This bill is a waste of taxpayers’ time, and I join them in looking forward to its defeat.”

10/11/2011 Gallup Independent: Hopi challenges BIA over water contamination

10/11/2011 Hopi challenges BIA over water contamination By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: KYKOTSMOVI – The Hopi Tribe has taken legal action against the Bureau of Indian Affairs over its operation of the Tuba City Open Dump and is seeking immediate restoration of contaminated groundwater that is migrating toward the Upper Moenkopi supply wells. Hopi Tribal Chairman LeRoy N. Shingoitewa said the tribe has spent more than 12 years trying to get the BIA to adequately address the issue of groundwater contamination stemming from the open dump since it was shut down in 1997. “Simply put, the BIA has failed to comply with the requirements that are in place to protect the Hopi Tribe’s drinking water,” he stated Monday in a press release.

The Tuba City Open Dump has contaminated groundwater that the Hopi Villages of Upper Moenkopi and Lower Moencopi rely on as their only source of drinking water, according to Louella Nahsonhoya, public information officer for the Hopi Tribe.

“Since the mid-1990s, the Hopi Tribe has been working under the guidance of the Environmental Protection Agency to establish a comprehensive program for the maintenance and protection of the Tribe’s drinking water sources on the reservation,” Shingoitewa said. “We have a series of ordinances in place which conform to the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.”

The Hopi claim the BIA did little, if anything, to manage what was being disposed at the dump during its years of operation and exacerbated the contamination by digging waste trenches that brought the waste material into close contact with the water table, approximately 15 feet below surface, according to Nahsonhoya.

The BIA has failed to take any action to prevent the further migration of the contamination that is now within the cone of influence of the Moenkopi supply wells, she said.

According to U.S. EPA, the dump – located on 28 acres of Hopi land and two acres of the Navajo Nation – received waste from 1940 to 1997. EPA signed an enforcement agreement with BIA in 2010, requiring investigation and evaluation of feasible cleanup options. BIA is the lead federal agency responsible for closing the site.

A notice of endangerment and intent to sue filed by Hopi in May 2009 stated that the unlined dump lies directly on top of the Navajo Aquifer and that supply wells located about 4,000 feet west of the dump provide water for the public water supply system that serves the Upper Village of Moenkopi. The Lower Village obtains water from two springs approximately 7,000 feet southwest of the dump.

At the time of the 2009 filing, the Hopi Tribe’s consultant had identified a contaminant plume that included uranium and elevated levels of inorganic contaminants which had migrated more than 4,000 feet downgradient from the dump. Groundwater exceeding the maximum contaminant level for uranium was within 2,500 feet of the village spring and supply wells, posing an imminent threat.

10/10/2011 Gallup Independent: Uranium mining license: Water wells, pipeline needed

10/10/2011 Uranium mining license: Water wells, pipeline needed by Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent: WINDOW ROCK – U.S. Sen. Tom Udall sought assurances Thursday from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission that Navajos living in Crownpoint would have a safe source of drinking water if Hydro Resources Inc. carries through with its plans for in situ mining of uranium in the Westwater Canyon Aquifer. In a hearing on cleanup of legacy uranium sites before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, Udall also pressed the NRC and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on proposed future uranium mining operations.

“Crownpoint is the location of a proposed in-situ leach uranium recovery operation near the Churchrock legacy site, and I understand the NRC has set up a license for HRI at the Crownpoint site that is dependent on several conditions, including legacy cleanup,” Udall said, and asked the NRC to clarify the status and content of HRI’s permit.

Michael Weber of the NRC said HRI, a subsidiary of Uranium Resources Inc., is in the process of completing some preparatory activities and he expects the agency to issue a letter to HRI in the near future, authorizing them to proceed.

The Westwater aquifer, a major source of drinking water for Crownpoint, “is fairly good water,” which the community has relied on for a long time, Udall said. “If the requirements of the permit were fulfilled, could the NRC and the EPA guarantee a safe and a consistent water source for the Crownpoint community?”

Weber said a “unique” provision of the NRC license is it requires HRI to provide an alternate water source for the local community before the company begins mining. “Typically, the in-situ recovery facilities are located at some distance from communities and so that doesn’t present itself, but in this situation, because of the unique circumstances involving HRI-Crownpoint, that was a provision in the licensing of the facility,” he said.

HRI must replace two Navajo Tribal Utility Authority water supply wells and three Bureau of Indian Affairs wells. In addition, the company must construct the necessary water pipeline and provide funds so the existing water supply systems of NTUA and BIA can be connected to the new wells.

“I would point out that in the history of in-situ recovery regulation, we have not seen a situation where a local supply well has been adversely impacted by the mining,” Weber said. However, he added, there have been “excursions.”

“An excursion is where an elevated level has been detected in either a monitoring well laterally, distant from the minefield, or above or below the aquifer that’s being mined,” he said. “If those excursions are detected, the licensee has to take action to correct that situation and at the end of active mining has to restore the aquifer back to suitable water-quality standards.”

Udall said he thought that license condition was “greatly appreciated by the local community.”

Eric Jantz, attorney for Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, which has vigorously opposed HRI’s plans to mine uranium in Crownpoint and Churchrock, said, “I have not heard anyone in Crownpoint express appreciation that License Condition 10.27 was included. All of the people I’ve spoken with are just pissed off that the project was licensed in the first place.”

An interesting problem for HRI, he said, is that in 1991, HRI applied to New Mexico Environment Department for an aquifer designation for its Crownpoint site, which the state granted. However, EPA, exercising its supervisory authority under the Safe Drinking Water Act, overruled NMED.

“In rejecting HRI’s aquifer designation application, EPA said that the Westwater aquifer at the Crownpoint site is an underground source of drinking water. I can’t see how – either technically or politically – EPA could backtrack from this position. All this seems to suggest HRI couldn’t mine at the Crownpoint site even if it wanted to,” Jantz said.

“Given that Section 17 and Unit 1 are Indian Country and subject to the Dine Natural Resources Protection Act, that only leaves HRI with Section 8.” The 2005 act prohibited uranium mining and processing in Navajo Indian Country.

Chris Shuey of Southwest Research Information Center said NTUA’s management board adopted a resolution in December 1997 asserting that it would not allow replacement of its two municipal wells in Crownpoint.

“In March 2005, Dr. John Leeper with the Navajo Water Resources Department gave an expert declaration in which he concluded that the Westwater aquifer would continue to be a major source of water supply for the Eastern Agency, even with development of the Navajo-Gallup project water line, and that the Navajo-Gallup project was never intended to replace the use or reliance on groundwater for municipal and agricultural supply in the Eastern Agency,” Shuey said.

NRC’s condition that HRI provide an alternate water supply was not opposed, Shuey said, “since it was an acknowledgment by even NRC that, despite HRI’s assurances to the contrary, ISL mining could not be done at the Crownpoint wellfield without impacting at least NTUA-1 and possibly impacting NTUA -2.”

NRC called the location of proposed ISL mining within a half mile of a currently operating municipal water supply well “unprecedented” in the history of ISL mining, Shuey said.

In the 1997 resolution, which was adopted unanimously, NTUA said the NRC proposal did not address future operation and maintenance expenses the utility may incur due to calcification of its water distribution system, nor future water quality and quantity concerns in connection with the relocated water supply wells and restoration of groundwater after mining.

“The Management Board directs NTUA management to inform HRI and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it will not agree to plug and abandon its Crownpoint wells.”