Public Hearing On Waste Disposal In Utah County
By Kathy Helms
January 19th, 2007
WINDOW ROCK -- A public hearing is set next Friday in Blanding, Utah, regarding approval of a license amendment which would allow disposal of 32,000 tons of radioactive sludge in San Juan
The Glen Canyon Group of Sierra Club appealed the Division of Radiation Control's approval of a license amendment to process and dispose of tons of radioactive sludge at the International Uranium Corp. (IUC) uranium mill on White Mesa, in San Juan County, Utah.
Sierra Club was granted standing by the board on Sept. 8.
The Group's Nuclear Waste Committee chairperson, Sarah Fields, said, "The State of Utah has determined that the tailings cells at the IUC mill were inadequately constructed and do not meet current EPA requirements for a leak detection system.
"Therefore, it makes no sense for IUC to dispose of material that will more than double the tonnage of some of the toxic contaminants in the tailings," Fields said.
The disposal cells originally were constructed in the late 1970s for the disposal of tailings from milling Colorado Plateau uranium ores.
The Utah Radiation Control Board will conduct the public hearing from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Arts and Events Center, College of Eastern Utah, 790 West 200 South.
Also at the Jan. 26 hearing, the board will consider whether the public will have an opportunity to present statements, in which case, community members could have an opportunity to be heard by the board.
Fields said the radioactive sludge comes from the decontamination of a bankrupt facility in Muskogee, Okla., that processed ores and tin slag for recovery of certain metals.
The facility is undergoing reclamation and cleanup due to hazardous and radiological contamination. The sludge must be disposed of in a licensed radioactive waste facility because it contains uranium and thorium and numerous toxic chemical contaminants.
Public records, including Notices of Violation, indicate excessive amounts of contaminants in the groundwater around the mill, Fields said.
IUC alleges that uranium measured in the groundwater near the mills in excess of state standards is due to natural causes. However, the Division of Radiation Control has disputed the IUC "natural causes" allegation.
Travis Stills and Brad Bartlett, attorneys with the Energy Minerals Law Center in Durango, Colo., will present the case on behalf of the Sierra Club.
From: Kathy Helms <email@example.com>
Gallup Independent <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Navajo Utah Commission On Radiation Exposure
By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau
WINDOW ROCK -- For nearly a half century, the Navajo people were unwitting victims of radioactive fallout. They labored unprotected in underground uranium mines, unaware of the dangers. But the pay was good.
Now, these downwinders and those who worked the mines and mills or hauled the ore, and even their family members are sick and seeking federal compensation.
But federal response to those applications for compensation has been slow to non-existent, according to Lucy Begay, coordinator of the Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program at Utah Navajo Health System.
Begay addressed the Navajo Utah Commission Monday during its final meeting before the incoming 21st Navajo Nation Council.
Commission Chairman Willie Grayeyes said he had a number of family members affected by uranium mining. "Even though the federal compensation is available, it is so doggone difficult. It's like trying to climb Mount Everest in the winter. Either you make it or you don't make it."
He said the feds have made it so difficult to obtain the required documents, families spend all their resources just trying to gather the information. The tribe's Privacy Act also tends to get in the way ."Sometimes it's so frustrating the people just say, 'To heck with it. Let it go'," Grayeyes said.
Begay said Part II of the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act approved last year is "very difficult in the sense of evaluation, because they base their compensation on expanded impairment (and) they base their compensation on percentage.
"Let's say, if a person was in a wheelchair, then they're able to get almost all their compensation. But as far as I know, very few miners have been compensated," at least not fully, she said. "Most of them are getting only medical benefits."
Commission member Mark Maryboy said the Navajo Utah RESEP program is a project they worked hard on, meeting with federal officials and raising complaints about the Utah Navajos being left out of the loop.
"Sometimes we think we're just talking to walls. When you talk to those senators, they don't really seem to be receptive. ... Sometimes people come to us complaining they have to go through tons and tons of bureaucratic process before they're compensated," Maryboy said.
"A lot of our Utah folks worked at the mines over at VCA, Oljato Mine, right around Cone Wash, Clay Hills and places like that. Some of those folks died trying to get compensation," he said.
"The siblings, the kids that were at the mines when they were growing up, now they have cancers and some of them have a hard, hard time getting the necessary documents to justify that they're affected."
Some reside on lands in close proximity to the Nevada Test Site. "They're also in the category of downwinders. Even then, they're struggling. Thesefolks are dying off and they're still struggling with paperwork," Maryboy said.
The office of U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, has been very supportive of the RESEP program, according to Begay. Matheson himself is a downwinder and has family members that have been exposed to radiation.
"In our area, down where Mark is (Aneth), we have families that have been affected by the radiation and nobody knows about it. Only the families tell stories about it," Begay said.
Obtaining documentation acceptable to the federal government is a constant struggle
for Navajo victims of radiation exposure. "A lot of applications are being denied because we're on the reservation and we don't have physical addresses. Most of our folks never kept records," Begay said.
The regulations are set by the National Research Council and is all very scientific, she said. Too, because the regulations were approved by Congress, it's difficult to change some of the statutes.
"There are a lot of applications, a lot of setbacks. I'm asking the commission to continue supporting our program," said Begay, who works mainly with the Idaho Falls Resource Center.
"We work with people throughout Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California. We have people all the way from Alaska and Hawaii. We don't work with only Navajo people. We work with all people," she said.
The Utah Navajo Health System now has five clinics, located in Montezuma Creek, Salt Lake City, Blanding, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain.
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