Tag Archives: Uranium

6/29/2012 Gallup Independent: La Jara uranium mine would impact Mount Taylor TCP By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau

6/29/2011 La Jara Uranium Mine Would Impact Mount Taylor TCP“>

4/19/2012 Congress tells DOE and EPA clean up Navajo abandoned uranium mines & impact to public health

4/19/2012 Congress tell DOE &EPA Clean up uranium mines & protect health of the people“>

Tainted Desert, Tufts magazine article by Leslie Macmillian

“Tainted Desert”, Tufts magazine article by Leslie MacmillianTainted Desert, Tufts Magazine by Leslie Mac Mill Ian

11/7/2011 Forgotten People MEDIA RELEASE: Peabody Kayenta mine permit renewal – Dooda (No)

Forgotten People MEDIA RELEASE: Peabody Kayenta mine permit renewal – Dooda (No): Black Mesa, AZ-On November 3, 2011, Forgotten People through their attorney Mick Harrison, Esq. with assistance from GreenFire Consulting Group, LLC joined Black Mesa Water Coalition, Diné C.A.R.E., To Nizhoni Ani, Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club in submitting comments to oppose the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) decision to approve a controversial mine permit renewal for Peabody Coal Company’s Kayenta mine.

OSM’s Environmental Assessment (EA) improperly discounts and ignores the substantial adverse impacts on the traditional Dine’ that result from Peabody’s mining activities including destruction of sacred sites and contamination of air and water and adverse health effects to humans and animals. Norris Nez (Hathalie) stated: “In Black Mesa area there were many key sites where offerings were given and Peabody has destroyed these sites. That is why the prayers or ceremonies that were conducted are lost. It is because the land is destroyed.” Glenna Begay stated: “To protect and preserve endangered historic, cultural and sacred sites in and adjacent to Peabody’s lease area, Forgotten People submitted ‘Homeland’, a GIS interactive mapping project that shows continuous occupancy since before the creation of the Navajo and Hopi Tribes and before the Long Walk to Fort Sumner in 1864.”

The EA does not address the severe impacts on the families to be (apparently forcibly and involuntarily) relocated. Glenna Begay stated: “How can the EA say the residents of the four occupied houses have not indicated that they have concerns about relocation and impacts on traditional cultural resources. Contrary to the EA some of the families who are to be relocated refuse. The families that objected to relocation should have been properly identified and quoted on their opposition in the EA.“ Norris Nez stated, “If more mining takes place, more people will be forced to relocate. Relocation is death to our people and our future.”

Experts have testified about relocation effects, like Dr. Thayer Scudder from Cal Tech University who says, relocation= death, i.e., that relocated people die. Yet there is no meaningful assessment in the EA of the real, huge and acknowledged effects of mining and subsequent relocation on the lives of the Forgotten People.

Peabody’s mining activities have contaminated the locally-owned water sources, and local water sources are capped, there is no water left to drink, and the Forgotten People are now dependent on the Peabody water supply. “The drinking water crisis is further exacerbated by the recent (September 2011) discovery of uranium and arsenic contaminated wells on the Hopi Partition Land (HPL),” stated Karyn Moskowitz, MBA of GreenFire Consulting Group, LLC.

John Benally, Big Mountain stated: “People living in the vicinity of Peabody do not have adequate water to drink, are hauling their water over great distances, and in some areas are drinking uranium and arsenic contaminated water. Peabody must return use of the wells that rely on the Navajo Aquifer to the Forgotten People so people within the western Navajo Nation do not have to drink contaminated water. Use of the Navajo Aquifer to support mining activities must stop.”

In the over 300 page EA, there is no mention of arsenic and no study of the impacts this contaminated water has had on residents and will have on the future of the Forgotten People. The discovery of these highly poisonous compounds in people’s drinking water should have immediately shut down any plans for continued mining in order to assess where the contamination is coming from and what the connection is between Peabody Coal’s mining and the discovery of this uranium and arsenic contamination. Yet the EA does not study the impact that this situation has on the Forgotten People. Clean water is a basic human right.

The EA mistakenly dismisses the removal of millions of tons of coal via surface mining as not significant in terms of minerals and geologic impacts including impacts on fossils. The EA also incorrectly dismisses the potential for material damage to the N aquifer from Peabody activities.

“The EA does not take the health and environmental threats from coal dust releases seriously and fails to assess or identify mitigation options for the significant adverse health effects reported by residents as a result of Peabody mining activities,” stated Christine Glaser, Ph.D. of GreenFire Consulting Group, LLC. The EA is defective because it does not include or recommend a real study of the cumulative, long-term health effects of this coal dust on the Forgotten People, including chronic illness and death from Black Lung disease.

Caroline Tohannie, Black Mesa stated: “The EA failed to address the real dangers of using an unpermitted railroad to transport coal from Kayenta mine to the Navajo Generating Station (NGS). Insufficient barrier arms and warning lights have already resulted in the death of people and livestock.”

Attorney Harrison stated: “The EA makes scientific conclusions contrary to prevailing science and contrary to the federal environmental agencies’ own stated positions and conclusions regarding climate change. The EA blatantly violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by considering only the climate change impacts of the Peabody mining alone without assessing the cumulative impacts of coal mining and of the burning of the Peabody coal in the NGS together with burning of other coal in other coal fired power plants. Coal mining and coal combustion collectively have significant adverse impacts on climate change. Given the severity of the harm currently threatened from climate change, a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), not just an EA, is required.”

On January 5, 2010, Administrative Law Judge Robert Holt issued an order vacating Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM’s) approval of Peabody Coal Company’s proposed permit modification for a life-of-mine permit for the Black Mesa complex based on violations of NEPA. The Judge also found OSM failed to develop and consider reasonable alternatives to the proposed action.

The current OSM Environmental Assessment, Finding Of No Significant Impact, and Kayenta Mine permit renewal decision involve the same type of NEPA violation involving failure to identify, develop, and assess reasonable alternatives. Only two alternatives were developed: the mine alternative and the no mine alternative. Other alternatives could have and should have been assessed including no mining combined with development of alternative energy facilities such as solar and wind.

The Forgotten People hope OSM will consider all the comments received and make the right decision, which would be to deny renewal of the Kayenta Mine permit. Peabody Dooda (No). For further information, please contact Attorney Mick Harrison at (812) 361-6220 or Forgotten People at (928) 401-1777.

-End-

10/27/2011 Gallup Independent: The Grand Canyon – Protection of areas near national park from uranium mining a step closer

10/27/2011 The Grand Canyon – Protection of areas near national park from uranium mining a step closer By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent:  WINDOW ROCK – The Obama administration took a critical step Wednesday toward protecting more than a million acres of public land around Grand Canyon National Park from mineral exploration and new uranium mining for the next 20 years.   The Bureau of Land Management released the Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Northern Arizona Proposed Withdrawal which identifies the preferred alternative of withdrawing about 1 million acres from new mining claims under the 1872 Mining Law, subject to valid existing rights.  Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar is expected to formally finalize Wednesday’s decision in 30 days.

“Uranium remains an important part of our nation’s comprehensive energy resources, but it is appropriate to pause, identify what the predicted level of mining and its impacts on the Grand Canyon would be, and decide what level of risk is acceptable to take with this national treasure,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said.

“The preferred alternative would allow for cautious, continued development with strong oversight that could help us fill critical gaps in our knowledge about water quality and environmental impacts of uranium mining in the area,” he said.

The Final EIS estimates that as many as 11 uranium mines could be operational over the next 20 years under the preferred alternative, including the four mines currently approved.

“It’s been a long struggle for us to preserve our homelands,” Carletta Tilousi said Wednesday evening. Tilousi, a member of the Havasupai Tribal Council, lives in Supai Village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She also works with a group of Havasupai elders who have taken the lead to protect the Grand Canyon and sacred places.

“I’ve watched my elders travel in and out of the canyon to come to these public meetings and voice their opinions,” she said.  “In my community it’s really been the traditional elders and the traditional practitioners that have really taken the lead to stand up in front of the federal officials and learn about the EIS and the BLM process and the Forest Service process.

“I’m very, very surprised, and at the same time I’m very happy that the government is finally listening to my people after many years. It’s really the elders’ victory. With the support of the Council they have been able to succeed in preserving it.”

Tilousi said cancer rates have risen in their small community, something she attributes to the federal government’s above-ground atomic testing at Nevada Test Site.

“We were downwinders of that and I have noticed that a lot of my people are coming face to face and battling cancer. It’s just another struggle from uranium mining and the nuclear industry that’s taken many lives from my community and the neighboring tribes. If the U.S. government really wants to preserve human life, I think this is the right thing to do – a million acres be put aside for preservation. No one wants to lose life over profit,” she said.

The Arizona 1 mine is 15 miles northwest of the village. Another mine is located 25 miles away as the crow flies, right above their watershed, Havasu Creek, she said. “That’s the river that we sustain ourselves with down in Supai Canyon.” Tribal members are conducting ongoing water testing to monitor for heavy metals.

“We’ve learned so much from the Navajo people and their challenges, that we really stood up against this. Since 1984 this has been an issue that my tribe’s been fighting,” she said. “It’s just been a lifelong struggle for me. When uranium was first brought up, I was probably 13 years old. Now I’m 41. When I watch my elders, all the challenges and fights that they’ve been through, it’s inevitable that I’m going to be old and still continuing this work.”

The Navajo Nation submitted comments in May through Navajo Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Stephen B. Etsitty and David Taylor from the Department of Justice, in support of the preferred alternative.

The Nation also said that if the Interior intends to allow for limited uranium mining and milling where valid existing rights are found, then it must be willing to provide adequate resources and technical support to the Navajo Nation for improved emergency planning and response capabilities to address any potential releases of hazardous and radioactive substances along transport routes, especially any that traverse the Navajo Nation.

In addition, Navajo requested enhanced government-to-government consultation on any subsequent federal decisions that could impact Navajo Nation resources, as well as enhanced federal policy implementation supporting the role of the Navajo Nation in any subsequent decisions the state of Arizona may make regarding uranium mining and processing.

Tilousi said one of her main concerns with the operating mine approximately 15 miles away on the North Rim is radioactive particles being carried on the prevailing wind at 30 to 40 miles per hour.

“It’s coming our direction and it’s coming through the air. People can’t see it or smell it or touch it, but I know, I sense that it’s coming through. That’s the scariest part. You don’t know how it’s affecting you until way later. And then it’s too late.”

Conservation groups commended Salazar and the Obama administration for the decision to protect public lands.

“The Grand Canyon is an international icon, a biodiversity hot spot and a huge economic engine for the Southwest,” Taylor McKinnon, public-lands campaigns director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “Protecting it from uranium mining pollution is the right thing to do.”

Information: http://www.blm.gov/az/st/en/prog/mining/timeout.html

10/3/2011 Health Care News: It's elemental: Many private wells across U.S. are contaminated with arsenic and other elements

“An estimated 15 million U.S. households regularly depend on private, unregulated and unmonitored water wells.”10/3/2011 Health Care News: It’s elemental: Many private wells across U.S. are contaminated with arsenic and other elements In Nebraska, along the Platte River, it’s uranium. In Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it’s arsenic. In California, boron. And in the Texas Panhandle, lithium. Throughout the nation, metals and other elements are tainting private drinking water wells at concentrations that pose a health concern. For one element – manganese – contamination is so widespread that water wells with excessive levels are found in all but just a few states. Arsenic, too, is a national problem, scattered in every region.

In the first national effort to monitor well water for two dozen trace elements, geologists have discovered that 13 percent of untreated drinking water contains at least one element at a concentration that exceeds federal health regulations or guidelines. That rate far outpaces other contaminants, including industrial chemicals and pesticides. The most troubling finding involves the widespread contamination of private wells, which are unmonitored and unregulated.

By Marla Cone, Editor in Chief: In Nebraska, along the Platte River, it’s uranium. In Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it’s arsenic. In California, boron. And in the Texas Panhandle, lithium.

Throughout the nation, metals and other elements are tainting private drinking water wells at concentrations that pose a health concern.

For one element – manganese – contamination is so widespread that water wells with excessive levels are found in all but just a few states. Arsenic, too, is a national problem, scattered in every region.

In the first national effort to monitor wells for two dozen trace elements, geologists have discovered that 13 percent of untreated drinking water contains at least one element at a concentration that exceeds federal health regulations or guidelines. That rate far outpaces other contaminants in well water, including industrial chemicals and pesticides.

For public wells, the discovery is less of a concern, since water suppliers regularly test for contaminants and remove them to comply with federal standards. The most troubling finding involves the widespread contamination of private wells, which are unmonitored and unregulated.

“It was a bit surprising how many of these trace elements had exceedances of human health benchmarks, especially compared to other contaminants we are often concerned about,” said Joseph Ayotte, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, which conducted the research. “The findings certainly underscore the message we hear from the public health agencies, that everyone should test their wells for a suite of trace elements.”

Long abandoned gold processing vats leave a legacy of cyanide and arsenic contamination near Genola, Utah.

An estimated 15 million U.S. households – about 60 million people – regularly depend on private water wells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most private well owners occasionally test for bacteria, but rarely, if ever, test for anything else.

“The findings certainly underscore the message we hear from the public health agencies, that everyone should test their wells for a suite of trace elements.” – Joseph Aotte, USGS

Nearly half of all drinking water in the country comes from ground water, and usage is increasing worldwide as freshwater supplies from rivers are running low and encumbered by bitter feuds.

“Ground water is very important. It’s the invisible link to our water supply that people don’t really think about,” said David Wunsch, director of science and technology at the National Ground Water Assn. “It’s underground – out of sight, out of mind – and that’s exactly why we’ve come across the pollution problems we have.”

The geologists tested more than 5,000 wells in 40 aquifers for 23 elements – all metals and metal-like substances – plus radon.

Drier regions of the country, mostly in the West, had more wells with excessive trace elements than humid regions, and urban areas had more than agricultural areas.

“Wells with human health benchmark exceedances were widespread across the United States; they occurred in all aquifer groups and in both humid and dry regions,” the report says.

People usually test their well water only when it tastes funny or smells bad, says one scientist.

Arsenic, uranium and manganese most frequently exceeded either health standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency or health-based guidelines developed by the USGS and the EPA. Arsenic, radon and chromium are carcinogens, uranium and cadmium can damage kidneys and manganese might have neurological effects. Boron might lead to smaller fetuses and damage to male reproductive organs, while barium can cause high blood pressure and lithium can suppress the thyroid.

“Trace elements are a widespread chronic health problem,” Wunsch said. “It’s not like something that’s really dramatic where people will get sick right away, but the public needs to be informed more. Some of the things listed here – arsenic, barium, lead, cadmium, for example – can be toxic in small quantities.”

Wunsch said people usually test their well water only when it tastes funny or smells bad. “Private well water is not regulated like the public water supply is. So it’s up to the homeowner to take care of it himself,” he said.

Drier regions of the country, mostly in the West, had more wells with excessive trace elements than humid regions, and urban areas had more than agricultural areas.Mary McClintock has been drinking well water since she bought her home in Conway, Mass., 27 years ago. “I remember having the well tested before buying the house, and perhaps at one other time early on,” she said.

McClintock said she has no health concerns about her water, although a friend who lives in Leverett 15 miles away discovered his well water had excessive arsenic after he tested it at the recommendation of state officials. He and his family now drink bottled water.

“Why haven’t I tested my well? No particular reason except assuming it is a deep well and not in danger of contamination,” she said.

The USGS maps show that arsenic is mostly a problem in parts of New England east of where McClintock lives. But geologists say that it’s a misconception to believe that deeper wells are safer. Elements can be found at any depth, and some, like arsenic, are even worse in deeper wells.

“We actually anticipate that deeper wells should have more arsenic than shallow ones based on the geochemistry of mobilization of arsenic. But high concentrations can occur at any depth if the geochemical conditions are right,” Ayotte said. Sand and gravel soils are most conducive to contamination, which also depends on factors such as pH and climate.

Overall, 19 percent of the 5,183 untreated public, private and monitoring wells exceeded the health-based levels. When private drinking water wells were separated from the pack, 13 percent exceeded the health standards or guidelines.

But that national average is a bit deceptive, since some regions have a far greater frequency of problems. Hot spots for elements are congregated in clusters.

Geologists say it’s a misconception to believe that deeper wells are safer. Elements can be found at any depth, and some, like arsenic, are even worse in deeper wells.Eastern New England, for example, has a cluster of high arsenic concentrations. “What we did not know was how to connect the dots in New England states,” Ayotte said. “It became apparent [in the new study] that the high arsenic values formed a contiguous belt between three states, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”

They also found that manganese is “widespread but more prevalent in the East. It’s similar with arsenic, you can find it almost anywhere at high levels,” said Ayotte, lead author of the USGS study, also authored by Jo Ann Gronberg and Lori Apodaca.

Other arsenic hot spots include the Sacramento and Los Angeles regions of California, western Nevada, the Phoenix area, the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico along the Rio Grande, according to the new study’s maps. Others are found in Illinois, Ohio, south Florida and New Jersey.

“Arsenic is definitely a national problem with a local flavor,” Ayotte said.

Officials recommend that homeowners have their wells tested not just for bacteria, but for trace elements and other contaminants.

Most elements found in ground water are derived from natural sources, since they are part of the Earth’s crust. But even though the source is overwhelmingly natural, “the conditions that make it go into the water are not always natural,” Ayotte said. Elements can contaminate water from farms, urban runoff, mining and factories, either directly or by altering aquifer conditions to mobilize them in rocks and soil.

The EPA has set enforceable drinking water standards for 11 trace elements, what Wunsch called “the really nasty ones.” But others, including manganese, have only USGS guidelines based on a small number of health studies.

Private wells are not subject to federal standards because there are tens of millions of them, which would make it unenforceable.

Instead, EPA officials said in response to the new findings that people should test their private wells “if they suspect possible contamination.” The new USGS maps are useful for well owners who want to check the hot spots.

Testing a well for arsenic costs as little as $15 to $30, while treatment systems for removing arsenic cost $1,200 to $3,000, according to the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection.

The report notes that elements “far outpace” other pollutants, many of which get far more public attention. The 19 percent compares with 7 percent for nitrates and 1 to 2 percent for pesticides and volatile organic compounds, based on previous USGS research.

“We often get more upset about these anthropogenic contaminants but we have to remember that these naturally occurring elements are oftentimes more of a widespread problem,” Ayotte said. “Not to diminish the importance of the others, but trace elements are also hugely important and arguably more so.”

8/30/3011 Gallup Independent: Cleaning up the Skyline: 519 abandoned uranium mine sites on Navajo left to go

8/30/3011 Gallup Independent: Cleaning up the Skyline: 519 abandoned uranium mine sites on Navajo left to go By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: MONUMENT VALLEY, Utah – In 1951, the Navajo Tribal Council sent a proposal to Washington that would permit Navajos to lease their lands to whites and also make it easier for them to obtain prospecting permits. Since exploration began in 1942, the mining business in Monument Valley had contributed $170,000 in royalties to tribal coffers. Uranium ore was raising the standard of living. Across the valley, uranium mines sprang up much like the red sandstone rocks that erupted from the desert floor. Unsuspecting Navajos took to the rocks with picks and shovels, little knowing that the uranium and vanadium gleaned from the yellow outcrops of carnotite would leave permanent scars on the landscape and the people.

At Skyline Mine on Oljato Mesa, 5,794 feet above sea level, a gondola running along a steel cable was used to transport ore from atop the mesa to the “transloading” area below, where it was placed in trucks and hauled to a mill for processing.

“The miners would ride up in the bucket back in the day,” according to Jason Musante, federal on-scene coordinator for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Emergency Response Section. Now, all that remains of the mine that inspired dreams of sky-high wealth is about 30,000 cubic yards of radium-contaminated soil which EPA is in charge of removing.

During the 1990s, portions of the Skyline Mine were closed by the Navajo Nation Abandoned Mine Land program, which focused on removing immediate physical hazards, consolidating loose mine waste and capping it with clean fill dirt. But due to the steep terrain, some wastes at the eastern edge of the mesa and at the bottom were not removed.

Skyline is the first abandoned uranium mine U.S. EPA will complete cleanup at under a five-year inter-agency plan to address the Cold War legacy of uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation. The federal agency is working with Navajo EPA to prioritize and clean up the highest-risk abandoned uranium mines from among 520 sites.

Eugene Esplain, a health physicist with Navajo EPA’s Superfund program, said that between 1995 and 2000 they screened the Skyline Mine site after talking to local resident Elsie Begay – a central figure in the award-winning documentary, “The Return of Navajo Boy.”

Esplain and co-workers walked from the foot of the mesa to the top, assessing the contamination. “A little over a thousand feet we got high readings, so we kept going up the slope and the readings got more elevated the higher we went. This one went as high as 10 times background,” he said.

Esplain suffered a fall and ended up having knee surgery, but they were able to grade the site. “We didn’t do any characterization work up there. We knew that we didn’t have the tools or manpower to do this work. We reported it to our supervisor as such, and that we should ask U.S. EPA to take the lead on this one,” he said.

The $7 million project was initiated by U.S. EPA in August 2009 and on March 28 of this year they mobilized to come out and begin work on the disposal cell on top of the mesa.

About 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil were removed from the arroyo, and approximately 5,000 cubic yards each from the transloading area and the “talus slope,” a pile of radioactive waste rock and ore that either was pushed over the upper slope or fell from the top of the mesa. An estimated 10,000 cubic yards more were removed from the top of the mesa. A gray-green stain extends down the face of the cliff, a visual reminder of the years of mining activity.

All contaminated soils on the valley floor have been stockpiled into one huge red pile, which is being whittled away 4 cubic yards at a time using a modern version of the “skyline.” The top cable, or skyline, runs from a piece of heavy equipment on the mesa to another piece of heavy equipment below. A second line, called a haul-back line, pulls the hopper up and down the cliff.

As soon as the bucket has landed, a front-end loader loads it with one straight-up bucketful from the stockpile of soil, then the skyline goes up and transports the hopper to the top, where it drops its load into a truck and then returns to the valley floor, Musante said. The cycle takes about 4-1/2 minutes. When full, the truck deposits the soil into the disposal cell a short distance away.

Air monitors are triangulated around the housing area at the foot of the mesa, where five families reside, with another set of monitors surrounding the work area on the cliff. The contaminated soils are wet and mixed to prevent the dust from blowing around. “Sometimes we also do active dust suppression where we’ve got like a fog of water spraying in the air to knock out the dust particles that are created,” he said.

“We have really good confidence that there’s not an excess exposure being created by our work activities for residents nearby. Based on two months worth of data, families were told they could move back if they wanted. Two families returned and others are expected to begin moving back Tuesday. The nearly six-month project is expected to be done by Labor Day.

On the upper slope at the edge of the mesa, they removed contaminated material 10 to 15 feet deep. “We got about 90 percent of what was there, but with the technique we’re using out here and that bucket, once it hits those large cobbles, it can’t get the small stuff underneath, so there is a little bit of residual material,” he said. “But I think the main point is we were able to remove a significant quantity of the material that was going to continue to fall down over the side.”

Given the dangerous terrain, they have been very fortunate, with only one freak accident. “When we were excavating this upper slope area with the dredge bucket, for what appears to be quality control or a failure in the cable itself, the haul-back cable snapped while the dredge bucket unit was at the very top,” Musante said. “Then the operator-activated brake failed to engage, the safety brake wasn’t enough to stop the unit, and the warning horn didn’t go off.

“It was kind of ‘the system failed as it was designed’ and the dredge bucket traveled all the way down to the anchor, flew off and flew back about 80 feet. The one thing I can say is that while that was a completely random action that no one could have predicted – and it wasn’t for lack of safety procedures – we had an exclusion area so that nobody was standing right behind there when that did happen.” The incident is under investigation.

Mary Helen Begay, Elsie’s daughter-in-law, has been documenting the cleanup in “webisodes,” which she presented last week at the 2011 Tribal Lands and Environment Forum in Green Bay, Wisc. Begay attended the forum along with Jeff Spitz, co-producer of “The Return of Navajo Boy.”

She said that at one of the screenings she met a woman, originally from Cameron, who wanted to share her story. “She remembered drinking out of this well,” which in later years she found out was named after one of the uranium mines. “She lost several family members.”

Begay then told the audience how she lost her dad, several uncles, nieces and brothers-in-law to illnesses related to uranium. “I said right now I have an uncle who is dying from cancer. My uncle is in his last stage. He’s in his hospice stage. The cancer has spread across his lungs. All he’s waiting for is time for him to go. There’s nothing that can be done, so they’re just giving him painkillers.

“Not only that, I said, when you look at the movie again (Navajo Boy), you see a medicine man performing a healing ritual ceremony, the Wind Way. Many of our Navajo people have utilized medicine men out there. A lot have died, but some are still living but don’t have documents of their medical. They have nothing to prove that they have problems with breathing or any type of health issues,” she said, therefore, they can’t get federal compensation for radiation-related illnesses.

And then she shared with them the story about Skyline Mine. “The cleanup that’s being done right now, I thought they were doing a good job,” she said. But recently she was told that areas on the back side of the mine where prior reclamation efforts were done, have elevated readings. Though those areas are outside the scope of EPA’s emergency removal action at Skyline, she questions why they were not included in the cleanup.

“Do we need to fight for more money and say we need the rest of it cleaned up? What do we need to do?”

8/28/2011 Extremely High First Year Radiation Doses Predicted by Japanese Government in some areas

8/28/2011 Extremely High First Year Radiation Doses Predicted by Japanese Government in some areasby Gordon Edwards: Background: Deposits of radioactive fallout from Fukushima are highly variable, depending on weather conditions, precipitation, and nature of the releases — which include not only gases and vapours, but also “hot particles”, sometimes called “nuclear fuel fleas”, which are tiny but solid radioactive “cinders” from the disintegrated fuel elements. For those who may not know, MEXT is Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology. A note about the numbers: In Canada, the maximum extra radiation exposure allowed (by regulation) for a member of the public is 1 mSv per year. In the nuclear industry, any worker who is exposed to 1 mSv or more per year must receive special training. In North America, the maximum occupational exposure for an atomic worker is 50 mSv per year. In Germany, the maximum occupational exposure for an atomic worker is 20 mSv per year.

8/23/2011 Email From: Ko-ichi Nakamura: 8/23/2011 Greetings, I am forwarding Dr. Saji’s latest daily update by Ko-ichi Nakamura: (Dr. Saji is Ex-Secretariat of Nuclear Safety Commission, Japan). He is now retired, independent from any government or industry group. The following web sites may be your good source of info, what is going on everyday. http://jaif.or.jp/english/ http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/
Best regards, Ko-ichi Nakamura

8/23/2011 Email From: Genn Saji: Dear Colleagues: 161th-165th day!:

I. Extremely high first year doses predicted by MEXT. MEXT announced their estimation of the first year doses (starting from the day of the accident), at the 50 representative spots within the 20 km “vigilance (off-limit)” zone in view of the government intention of allowing re-habilitation of the evacuees. According to their measurements, the dose rates are orders of magnitude different within the same zone in Fukushima Prefecture. Among the extremely high doses recorded are these: 508.1 mSv at Koirino, Okuma-cho, 223.7 mSv at Kawafusa, Namie-cho, 172.4 mSv at Futaba-cho, 115.3 mSv at Koryougahama, Tomioka-cho, 53.1 mSv at Kanaya, Kotaka-ku, Minamisouma-shi.

Thirty five out of 50 locations exceeded the Government guideline of the first year dose of 20 mSv. The dose rates are greatly different even in the same district. For example, at Namie-cho, it was only 4.1 mSv at Kitaokusebashi, located only 8 km from the Fukushima Daiichi. I think overall dose maps have been shown in DOE/NNRI website by indicating above 20 mSv, however, these individual values higher than 20 mSv are the first released by MEXT.

Further studies of these phenomena are very important, I believe, since there are two possibilities. One is that these highly contaminated spots are induced by the black-rain/fallout as droplets from the plumes, mostly in a liquid state. The other case is that highly radioactive solid fuel particles were included in the plume which fell out during the plume passage.

In this case, the surface concentration should be much more localized than the first case. In the first case, the removal of wider surface soil should be necessary for decontamination. Whereas, in the second case, it is essential to locate the hot particles and remove them.

Being influenced by these facts, the Government is now saying that there will be some areas where rehabilitation will not be possible for an extended [number of] years, typically several tens of years. Mr. Edano, Chief Secretary of Diet, said on August 21 that the government is going to contact with the local communities to explain these prospects. It was reported that the government is going to purchase these areas, however, the local people may refuse to sell due to a strong affection towards their homelands. The Government is shifted to lent [forced to rent] the lands for decontamination until re-habitation will become feasible.

Through watching results of various decontamination activities being performed in Fukushima, I got an impression that decreasing the soil activation by one order of magnitude may be feasible, such as by removing the surface soil as well as disposing weeds and fallen leaves, reduction of two orders of magnitude may not be practical, due to secondary contamination possibilities. I once thought it is essential to decontaminate the very highly contaminated corridor stretching towards NW direction towards the Iitate-mura [village], however, I begin to think it will not be feasible if we consider secondary radiation doses expected for the workers. It is because most of these regions are in a Mountain district (Abukuma mountain chain).

The recent observation [recently observed] activities are now showing that a large fraction of radioactivity seems to be absorbed in leaves and barks of the trees. For decontamination, we need to dispose these biomass mass safely, As in the case of the “Red Forest” stretching towards the west direction from the Chernobyl reactor, the decontamination may be impossible. The Government should clearly explain to the affected people what can be done and what will be impossible, considering the secondary radiation risk.

II. Update of internal exposure in livestock

Since I covered this subject in July 30 as [Update #134], this issue is being reported almost every day in Japanese media. I would like to update this since another route of contamination [of beef] was discovered recently. It has been generally understood that the major pathway was through rice straw feed mainly produced in Fukushima, contaminated from the straw left in the paddy field at the time of the plume passage, through a rice straw feed –> cattle.

However, stocked beef meet from 12 cattle was found contaminated as high as 2.0E+3 Bq/kg, [2,000 becquerels per kilogram] twice the temporary guideline. The meat was produced at Namiemachi (10-30 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi) in April. This rancher has not used the rice straw feed, instead he was feeding with imported hay, all stored in a barn. The local government [guessed] that the contaminated air passing through the barn may have contaminated the hay. In view of this, the Fukushima Prefecture is requesting the Government to lift the restriction of marketing cattle from Fukushima, since they are now ready to perform monitoring of each cattle.

I first suspected the pathway is from inhalation, however, due to high retention factor of radioactive aerosol in vegetation, the prominent pathway seems to be through contaminated straw or hay feed.

III. Update of the water purification system

The new zeolite sorption process, developed by Toshiba/Shaw Group has started to commission on August 18, showing DFs as below for Line B:

Species pre-processing post-processing DF
(Bq/cm3) (Bq/cm3) Decontamination Factor
I-131 ND (<7200) 5.8 <1,200 Cs-134 1,100,000 21 52,000 Cs-137 1,300,000 23 57,000 The DFs were found to be approximately 10 time lower than expected, however, it is an order of magnitude better than Kurion's process. Because of the reasonably good performance, TEPCO configured this system to run parallel to the existing system. The parallel operation improved the total capacity of the water purification system by a factor of 1.5 with 70 tons/h, starting from the night of August 19. This started to reduce the total volume of the highly contaminated water. If everything works as planned, the backlog inventories may be clarified in several month. Partly being helped from this, all of the temperature readings of the [Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 1 plant] went below the boiling point on 11 PM on August 19. The temperature readings of [Units 2 and 3] are still 118.4/126.4, [degrees Celsius] respectively. Genn Saji

Four Corners Free Press: Living with the legacy of uranium on the Navajo Nation

Four Corners Free Press: Living with the legacy of uranium on the Navajo Nation By Sonja Horoshko: Box Springs, Ariz., is cut off by the Little Colorado River from access to any paved roads or the conveniences of groceries, gas stations, banks, electricity and power, not to mention jobs and economic development. But the community’s willingness to solve its own problems is gaining it recognition as one of the most pro-active areas on the Navajo Nation. Surrounding the tiny hamlet is the country in the Navajo Nation Western Agency referred to by some as “Cancer Alley” – the heart of leetsoii, the uranium belt stretching through the Navajo Nation to the Four Corners region.

It is a place where unregulated water sources are poisoned with contaminants left behind by the un-remediated abandoned mining operations begun in the mid-1940s to fuel the Atomic Energy Commission and the Cold War.

As if the lack of safe, potable water isn’t problem enough, Box Springs, a community of less than 150, is 30 miles from Leupp, Ariz., the nearest town — a drive that often takes an hour. Harsh winter weather and the crenellated, pitched washboard of the partially graveled road add stress to the difficult, typically wind-whipped trip to haul drinking water twice a week for consumption and hygiene. The necessity is the dominant concern for all families living there.

On a mid-April Friday morning, the Tahonnie family opened their home to another community meeting of their grassroots organization, The Forgotten Navajo People, to hear from the Navajo Department of Water Resources about plans for a waterdelivery schedule beginning that day and to welcome the first 4,000-gallon water truck to the area.

“It is a blessing today, “said Rolanda Tahonnie. “A lot of progress has been made here, so it’s a beautiful day. Two years our water barrel has been completely empty and now it’s full.”

Thirty percent of Navajo families living on the reservation haul drinking water, compared to 1 percent of the U.S. population nationwide. With gas prices exceeding $3.80 per gallon and the expense of wear and tear on the vehicle, the price tag for Navajo consumers is more than 10 times the cost of water for a typical household in Phoenix, one of many Arizona metropolises fed by the water found beneath the reservation and transported through it to cities lying south of the reservation boundaries in Arizona.

The new water truck was bought with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant awarded to Indian Health Services, providing the Navajo Department of Water Resources funding for a three-year Safe Drinking Water Hauling Feasibility Study and Pilot Project.

Its huge shiny white hulk rumbled over the hill into the clearing that served as a casual parking area filled with pick-ups and trailers loaded with empty water containers. Following close behind was another truck hauling a new trailer and two 200-gallon tanks to be used by the residents there to move their personal water from the Tahonnie watering point and storage tank to homes further out in the community. Tó … Tó … Tó … (drip, drip, drip)

“Today is a great day,” said Forgotten People program director Marsha Monestersky. “Box Springs and the Forgotten People have become the heart of the Navajo reservation. It is the beginning.”

The program is a model that can work in all communities tucked into remote locations where water is scarce and roads are rough. “We are working with Department of Water Resources to schedule regular delivery points here in the Western Agency chapters, including Canyon Diablo, Gray Mountain and Cameron and then Coal Mine,” Monestersky said.

“It is a model water-hauling project,” added the director of DWR, Najam Tajiq. But it was a tough crowd gathered in the room: the local people, the real experts at hauling water. They directed their concerns to him about the lasting reliability of the program.

Benson Willie told Tajiq that they will need to strengthen the one bridge crossing a small arroyo on the road. It was not built to withstand repeated trips carrying the weight of a 4,000-gallon water truck and, he said, “The spigot on the Tolani Lake storage tank has been broken for months. We aren’t allowed to fix it, even though it’s a job any high-school student could do. We’ve been told it’s under warranty and it’s NTUA’s responsiblility.” NTUA is the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.

Adding to the challenge is the anticipated heavy maintenance and repair of the truck because of the ongoing Navajo Department of Roads maintenance issues.

In their mission statement, the Forgotten Navajo People write that they are dedicated to the rebuilding of the communities using a participatory methodology that strives to empower the local communities and ensures that they own and control their sustainable development agendas.

At the meeting, Don Yellowman, president of the group, explained progress at the two additional test-well projects upstream on the Little Colorado at Black Falls Crossing and near Leupp. If the water found there is potable and palatable, it will be piped through 12.4 miles of new waterline extensions to 155 homes in the area of concern.

Someday the water will be here, he told the group. “Nine homes now have bathroom additions and fixtures plumbed and ready for the water when it comes, and they were built by sharing each other’s labors, organizing the people’s teamwork in a traditional Diné way with Black Falls Project Manager Ronald Tahonnie.”

Blue gold

By 2007, the United Nations had announced two human-rights-to-water declarations. The first, issued in 2002, said, “The human right to water entitles everyone to sufficient, affordable, physically accessible, safe and acceptable water for personal and domestic uses.” It requires governments to adopt national strategies and plans of action which will allow them to “move expeditiously and effectively towards the full realization of the right to water.”

But in 2007 the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights expanded the statement to include in the definition, “the right to equal and non-discriminatory access to a sufficient amount of safe drinking water for personal and domestic uses. . .” ensuring a sufficient amount of water that is “good quality, is affordable for all and can be collected within a reasonable distance from a person’s home.”

The description fit the needs of Navajo people throughout the reservation. FNP began to work on a submission to the U.N. that would eventually lead to a 2010 historic declaration and help from its own central government in Window Rock, and a Navajo Commission on Emergency Management “Declaration of Public Health State of Emergency” for Black Falls/Box Springs/ Grand Falls.

Contamination in the water sources is attributable to uranium-mining and other natural-resources mining practices that began in the mid-1940s. Monestersky said, “The people here have been drinking contaminated water from unregulated livestock sources and springs for more than 40 years. This was our opportunity to address the issue on a global scale, to declare a humanrights emergency.” The case they submitted contained comments from interviews of Diné people denied access to water due to uranium contamination throughout the Navajo Nation, including their neighborhoods in Grey Mountain, Tuba City, Moenkopi and the New Lands.

Currently, the Diné are threatened by new uranium mining just outside their borders, despite a ban on such mining within the Navajo Nation, issued in 2005 by former president Joe Shirley, Jr. Adverse health effects continue, according to the stories in the document prepared by the Forgotten Navajo People, as a result of more than 1,100 un-reclaimed uranium sites throughout the Navajo Nation. The document includes graphic testament to conditions inflicted on the people living around Peabody Coal Company mining operations who are denied access to safe drinking water due to destruction, degradation and diminution of their water sources.

The report also includes a statement alleging that, “The Diné live on lands the U.S. Department of Energy calls a ‘National Sacrifice Area’.”

Response to the submission strengthened relationships with partners already work- ing on the cataclysmic environmental and health disaster. The U.S. EPA Superfund, Indian Health Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of Energy, Navajo Nation EPA, Navajo Abandoned Mines, DWR, and others, working on remediation and attribution of responsibility, have activated programs addressing the issues since the mid-1990s.

In 2006, Judy Pasternack, journalist and author of “Yellow Dirt,” began publishing excerpts from her work-in-progress in the Los Angeles Times.

The series painted a stark picture of national disgrace and neglect and the continuing presence of radioactive contamination in the Navajos’ “drinking supplies, in their walls and floors, playgrounds, bread ovens, in their churches, and even in their garbage dumps. And they are still dying.”

Hope fueled the work of the grassroots organizations. The Forgotten Navajo People began to feel remembered. They knew best what was needed in their own community and assumed the role of experts working toward solutions.

Ticking meters

But while the picture may have improved for Box Springs, at least in regard to drinking water, the dark legacy of uraniummining hangs over the Navajo Nation like a specter.

A month after the water-hauling meeting, the U.S. EPA announced a Superfund meeting in Tuba City on the Abandoned Uranium Mines project in the Western Agency. Nearly 200 people representing all the communities in the Western Agency crowded the conference room on May 14 with members of several Navajo grassroots environmental-justice and natural-resources organizations, including the Forgotten Navajo People.

Svetlana Zenkin, site assessment manager with EPA Region 9’s Superfund Division, explained the mine screening that provided for the initial evaluation of 520 sites found by 2000. During the first four years of a five-year plan of action, 383 of the sites throughout the reservation have been screened in an initial evaluation.

Sites under investigation in the Western Agency chapters include mines, transfer stations, homes and outbuilding structures, hogans, schools, water sources, tailing piles, landfills, barrow ditches, access roads and the Rare Metals mill site east of Tuba City. All 126 were identified in the original study found in the Abandoned Mines 2000 Atlas. The initial investigation of these was to be completed by the end of May, yielding a prioritized list identifying sites requiring additional investigation.

“Our main goal was to gauge the level of interest in the region, educate the people about our progress and to locate what sites people come into contact with that we didn’t know about,” said Zenkin.

The biggest surprise of the meeting was the contamination level discovered for a site east of the Cameron Chapter House on the west side of the Little Colorado River, not far from Box Springs.

According to Alex Grubbs, a representative of Weston Solutions, the Superfund contract environmental consultants for the project, “The meter maxed out three times … at a million,” which is an actual reading of 1,000 radiation counts per minute— a relative measure of radiation to the surrounding background area. Background radiation is typically between 5 and 60 cpm, rarely exceeding 100 cpm.

Although people in the community believe the site may have been a transfer station for ore, Zenkins said, “We hesitate to label the site until we have finished the intensive study required of such a screen. It has definitely moved to the top of the priority list.”

“Superfund” is a retroactive liability law, not a monetary fund. It has the authority to identify and locate hazardous sites and require the responsible party to fund the clean-up — even if it is a government entity such as the Department of Energy or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (former Atomic Energy Commission).

Contaminated water is the highest-priority threat because it is the most direct internal contaminant. Today, the subject of safe, clean water is also a hotly contested issue in the Northeastern Arizona Indian Water Rights Settlement.

In a special session in November 2010, the 21st Navajo Nation Council voted 51-24 to pass legislation supporting the settlement.

Ron Millford, a concerned Navajo citizen and opponent of the settlement, asked Superfund project manager Debbie Schechter for a clarification of authority. “Does the EPA Superfund have authority over waivers contained in the settlement?” According to Millford, “The waiver releases all claims against the state or corporations — including Arizona Power Service and Peabody Coal, that may pollute the environment,” including violations of the Clean Water Act.

Because the Superfund can go after any responsible party, it seems logical that it would have authority over such a waiver.

Schechter told Millford, “It is a question that we will ask the EPA lawyers, and get an answer for you on this.” At the time of this writing, Millford had not heard a response from the lawyers.

Green dust

Afternoon breakout groups at the May 14 meeting gave citizens an opportunity to tell their stories directly to the Superfund project managers. Of great concern was potential future contamination from possible Grand Canyon uranium-mining.

A single-parenting father of two young boys said, “I teach my sons to clean up after themselves, to be responsible. What will they think when they learn about the mining residue left behind by the corporations at these natural-resources operations?”

He added that the dust is everywhere and he’s concerned for his children who may play in contaminated soil picked up and blowing in the wind. Another young man called its presence in the windstorms, “unavoidable green dust,” and another woman added that children continue risk exposure when they put it in their mouths. “It tastes like rock candy,” she said.

Sarana Riggs, a young woman living in Tuba City, said she is very concerned about “the potential 50 trucks a day transporting uranium ore from the Grand Canyon through Cameron and Tuba City, Monument Valley and the Utah strip of Navajo Nation to the mill in Blanding, Utah.”

“What is the level of our awareness?” she asked. “What education can we be doing for our communities to prevent a repeat of this contamination and its aftereffects?”

Those answers remain unclear.

8/23/2011 FNArena News: Uranium Drops Below US$50

8/23/2011 FNArena News: Uranium Drops Below US$50By Greg Peel: Interest in the spot uranium market has been quietly drying up week by week confirming earlier feedback provided by industry consultant TradeTech. Last week’s trade was also impacted by northern hemisphere summer holidays but TradeTech notes ongoing uncertainty from both buyers and sellers on just where the global nuclear energy industry is heading from here. The sellers are nevertheless proving a little more keen to get deals away, so last week’s minimal activity of three transactions totalling 300,000lbs of U3O8 equivalent saw TradeTech’s sport price indicator fall US35c to US$49.90/lb.

It is the first time spot uranium has traded under the US$50/lb mark since briefly breaching that level in March following the plunge from around the US$70 level in the initial response to Fukushima. At that time buying support was unearthed as utilities, producers with production shortfalls and even hedge funds moved in to secure what was considered cheap material. A subsequent rethink of nuclear energy globally, the reality of large uranium inventories now superfluous in Japan, and moves by the US to enrich tailings stockpiles for sale have all conspired to diminish demand in the spot market and increase uncertainty generally on both sides of the price spread.

It remains to be seen whether a breach of the US$50/lb level can again inspire buying interest, remembering that spot uranium traded down into the low forties post the 2007 spot price bubble-and-bust.

There were no new transactions in the term market last week and TradeTech’s term price indicators remain at US$58/lb (medium) and US$68/lb (long).

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