Navajos Await Decision On Churchrock Cleanup - Words From Kevin Arnett On 'Canadian Genocide'
By Kathy Helms
WINDOW ROCK – It's been two long years since U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9, began cleanup of radioactive soils at residences near the Northeast Churchrock Mine, but a decision is expected any week now on further cleanup options.
“We're anticipating that the U.S. EPA will go through a public review and comment on a document called an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis for the mine cleanup. We are awaiting the decision,” said Stephen B. Etsitty, executive director of Navajo EPA.
“There are about five cleanup options, and several of those cleanup options have sub-options, so I think out of the entire array, there are about eight or nine ways to go on cleaning up the mine. Our preference has always been stated that we would like to have the contaminated materials removed out of Navajo Indian Country, but we realize there are costs – most notably transportation costs that make that a very big challenge,” he said.
Navajo EPA made a presentation in February before U.S. EPA's National Remedy Review Board which reviewed proposed cleanup by EPA regional offices across the country. “We were able to make a presentation to the board on our preferred option,” Etsitty said.
“They are going to make a recommendation to EPA Region 9 and once that process is completed, EPA Region 9 will be ready to put the Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis document out for public review and comment to get the public's perspective and recommendation on the cleanup. Once we go through a 30 to 45 day review and comment period, then they'll make a final decision,” he said.
Navajo is hoping to take advantage of this construction season to begin the actual cleanup of the mine site and some areas around the homes that weren't addressed initially, such as an unnamed arroyo that drains northward off the mine site and toward Teddy Nez's and other residents' homes.
In April 2007, EPA initiated removal of radium-contaminated soils from residences and side yards nearest the mine site. Approximately 6,000 cubic yards of radioactive soil were removed and transported to a site in Idaho.
Navajo EPA, U.S. EPA, United Nuclear Corp., and General Electric will be combining resources to address the mine site. “It's still our top priority and we're hoping for a good recommendation from the Remedy Review Board and a good selection of a remedy by EPA,” Etsitty said.
“I think the focus should be on cleaning up many, if not all of the abandoned uranium mines that are actually contaminating ground water, soil, and leading to problems with radon accumulation in homes or high levels of windblown dust that also has radioactive particles in it. All of those issues need to be examined.
“The decisions that were made decades ago about proper closure and restoration of these mine sites, they all deserve to be reviewed again, because our experiences here over the last five to six years at Navajo EPA is that simple weatherization can really do a lot of damage to caps that were designed in the '70s and the '80s and as late as the '90s. Other processes like subsidence can open up these old mine sites that were enclosed and you have direct exposure pathways once again.”
Resources Committee Chairman George Arthur, who sponsored legislation which led the Navajo Nation in 2005 to ban further uranium mining and processing, said the Nation is still in the process of getting some positive response on cleanup of the Northeast Churchrock Mine.
“We are making small progress and hoping that we would get to the end result in the next few months. I know that we are scheduled to make the update report to Rep. (Henry) Waxman. I understand that even though he transferred to a different committee, he still has a major role in the discussion that affects the Churchrock cleanup.”
In October 2007, under Waxman's chairmanship, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform directed five federal agencies to develop a five-year plan to address uranium cleanup issues on the Navajo Nation, calling it “a modern American tragedy.”
“Our government leased the lands for uranium mining, purchased the uranium yellowcake produced from the mines to supply our nuclear weapons stockpile, and then allowed the operators of the mines and mills to walk away without cleaning up the resulting contamination,” Waxman said.
“When the U.S. EPA took readings at one mine site, the radium levels were over 270 times the EPA standard,” he said, and that was in 2006, years after the mines had closed.
Teddy Nez, whose home is in the shadow of the Northeast Churchrock Mine, said the legacy waste needs to be taken care of before there is talk of further uranium mining. “Within the last 50 years they have not touched it. That's why we're saying no.”
Northeast Churchrock was operated by United Nuclear Corp. from 1967 to 1982. Mining activities resulted in a legacy of waste piles, sediment settling ponds, abandoned building pads and mine equipment debris. EPA has detected widespread radium contamination in 14 areas on and off-site.
At present, there is an elevated health risk for people who frequent the site from inhaling radium-contaminated dust particles, associated radon gas ,or utilizing contaminated rainwater and runoff that has pooled in the ponds. There is an elevated risk associated with livestock that may graze and water on the site. Elevated concentrations of radium-226 have been detected throughout the 125-acre mine permit boundary and contiguous surface areas.
Exposure to high levels of radium-226 over a long period of time may result in anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer – especially bone cancer – and death. Exposure to high levels of uranium can cause kidney disease and can decay into other radioactive materials that may cause cancer, according to EPA.
Words From Rev. Kevin Arnett
I just found out today that the National Film Board of Canada was allowed in to film the pope's so-called "private audience" with government Indians like Phil Fontaine, as part of the "apology" to Canadian residential school survivors. (An apology is a defense of one's actions, in the dictionary, by the way)
It turns out that the National Film Board is planning a big movie showing how "progressive" the pope is and how this whole thing is "settled" now. It wants to interview rez school survivors about their story and use them as part of this latest propaganda film.
The film starts full shooting in the fall, and will probably be released in the new year of 2010.This is the kind of big publicity spin that the government and church need to do, now that the story of genocide in Canada is getting out to the world - and the pope is personally implicated in ordering the cover up of these crimes.
We need to get the real story out even more now, reject these "apologies", and bring the criminals to justice ourselves.
And ... warn residential school survivors and their families NOT to agree to any interview by anyone representing the National Film Board of Canada.Spread the word.
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