Storm Damages Homestake Uranium Tailings Pile - SMSC Farmer's Market
By Kathy Helms
MILAN – Homestake Mining Co. is in the process of repairing the south slope of its small tailings pile and berms damaged Sunday during heavy rains, and an official from New Mexico Environment Department is headed to the former uranium mill site Wednesday to take gamma radiation readings below the tailings pile.
Homestake's Milan Mill, now undergoing reclamation, was added to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund National Priorities List in 1983. The site consists of a large tailings pile 100 feet high, covering 200 acres, and a small impoundment, 25 feet high, covering 40 acres. Four subdivisions are located from ½ to 2 miles from the tailings piles, with the nearest residence 3,000 feet away, according to EPA.
Candace Head-Dylla of Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance said Tuesday that nearby Murray Acres, located less than a mile southwest of the site, received approximately 2 inches of rain in about two hours Sunday. Portions of the subdivision were flooded, with Sundowner, Malapais and Thunderbird roads the hardest hit.
Floodwaters reached the back step on Mike Gregory's trailer, she said. “The kids were out there playing in it. We didn't know that some of this was coming from the tailings pile because it was dark, and then the next morning my brother said, 'Something's caved in on the side of that small tailings pile.'”
Head-Dylla notified Jerry Schoeppner at the Environment Department on Monday. “He had not heard anything about it,” she said.
Homestake usually has water spraying on top of the tailings pile as part of its reclamation effort. Head-Dylla fears that any potential contaminants on top of the tailings pile were washed down and into the yards of residents three streets away.
“Where Mike Gregory, Val and Josie Lopez, and Shannon Montano live, it just poured into that area,” she said.
At this point residents don't know whether they might have been impacted. “We have convinced NMED to come out tomorrow and do some sampling,” Head-Dylla said. “They're going to come and check any gamma and see if there's anything higher than background.”
According to Schoeppner, the small tailings pile did not fail and the evaporation pond did not suffer any breach or over-topping. Homestake is in process of repairing the cuts created by erosion and installing additional pipe to drain the top crest berm area down to the toe of the pile.
There is a berm located around portions of the pile to control top runoff from going over the side walls during storms and to convey the water to the drainage pipes, Schoeppner said, “but the storm of this magnitude was too large for the drainage pipes to manage.”
Head-Dylla said residents have a lot of questions.
“We want to know when there is an event like this, why don't they notify the community? Why aren't they telling us exactly what happened? Why are we the ones that have to notify NMED and why do we have to beg to get them to come out and sample?”
After the rain, the field in front of the tailings pile looked like a big lake, she said. “Like we told them before, we've got pictures of a boat that was floating in front of my mom's yard. This was like back in the '60s, so it's not like we've never had floods in this area. We keep telling people and they look at us like we're crazy.”
One of her family's greatest fears is a 50 year or 100 year flood event. If that were to occur, she said, “We don't know what's going to happen to that tailings pile because it blocks what used to be a floodplain.
SMSC Farmer's Market Now Open
By Tessa Lehto
Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is operating two Farmer’s Markets on the reservation to sell produce from Mdewakanton Wozupi, the Community’s organic garden. Cucumbers, carrots, zucchini, green beans, potatoes, onions, greens, sweet corn, red and golden beets, turnips, eggplant, peppers, herbs, sunflowers, and more are available for sale twice a week on the reservation. Tomatoes will be available soon. Look for fall harvest of broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, and other cool weather vegetables in autumn.
-On Tuesdays from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. produce is available for sale in the parking lot of the Dakotah! Ice Center at the corner of County Road 82 and Mystic Lake Boulevard.
-On Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. next to the SMSC Community Center West Wing (across the parking lot from Little Six Casino).
Mdewakanton Wozupi was planted in the spring of 2010 as a project of the SMSC Health and Wellness Department and the Department of Land and Natural Resources. It is planted and maintained by staff, Community members, and volunteers.
The Farmer’s Market will continue throughout summer and into the fall. A related project, a natural foods store to feature locally produced, natural, and organic foods, is underway and scheduled to be open by November 2010.
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