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Monday, July 27, 2009

Uranium Mining Impacts on Navajo Land From NYT

A timely piece Weld County citizens might want to consider digesting.  Pun taken of course. 

I had a good friend who moved a few years ago nearby Gallup New Mexico to work in a government office.  When he called his father, a once prominent environmental scientist, the man flipped.  I could hear him screaming at his son from across the room.  "Are you nuts?  Do you have any idea how much uranium contamination is in the air around that place!"  His son went anyway.

I've posted several paragraphs but there is much more to the story--so I suggest following the link. 

Uranium Contamination Haunts Navajo Country - NYTimes.com
The Slowman home, the same one-level cinderblock structure his family had lived in for nearly a half-century, was contaminated with potentially dangerous levels of uranium from the days of the cold war, when hundreds of uranium mines dotted the vast tribal land known as the Navajo Nation. The scientist advised Mr. Slowman, his wife and their two sons to move out until their home could be rebuilt.

“I was angry,” Mr. Slowman said. “I guess it was here all this time, and we never knew.”

The legacy wrought from decades of uranium mining is long and painful here on the expansive reservation. Over the years, Navajo miners extracted some four million tons of uranium ore from the ground, much of it used by the United States government to make weapons.

Many miners died from radiation-related illnesses; some, unaware of harmful health effects, hauled contaminated rocks and tailings from local mines and mills to build homes for their families.

Now, those homes are being demolished and rebuilt under a new government program that seeks to identify what are very likely dozens of uranium-contaminated structures still standing on Navajo land and to temporarily relocate people living in them until the homes can be torn down and rebuilt.

Stephen B. Etsitty, executive director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, and other tribal officials have been grappling for years with the environmental fallout from uranium mining.

“There were a lot of things people weren’t told about the plight of Navajos and uranium mining,” Mr. Etsitty said. “These legacy issues are impacting generations. At some point people are saying, ‘It’s got to end.’ ”


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