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Chevron and Western Nuclear to continue work at two Navajo Area mines

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Margot Perez-Sullivan (

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced separate agreements with Chevron U.S.A., Inc. and Western Nuclear, Inc. to develop cleanup options for uranium mine waste at the Mariano Lake and Ruby Mines on the Navajo Nation. The work is estimated to cost approximately $300,000 for each of the two mines.  

Today’s settlements continue the work needed to clean up radium-contaminated soil at the two mines located east of Gallup, N.M. Chevron completed an investigation of the hazardous waste at the Mariano Lake Mine Site under a 2011 agreement with EPA. Western Nuclear completed a similar investigation at the Ruby Mines Site under a 2013 agreement. The Superfund law may require owners and operators of mines to clean up historic contamination posing a threat to human health and the environment.

“Today’s agreements are important steps towards resolving the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation,” said Enrique Manzanilla, Superfund Director for the EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region. “We’re pleased these companies continue to work towards improving public health and the environment.”

Having concluded investigations at their respective mine sites, both companies will now develop a list of possible cleanup options, analyzing their feasibility in an Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis report.  EPA and the companies will meet and consult with the local communities and the Navajo Nation throughout the development of the report.  Once evaluations are completed, EPA will hold formal public meetings and accept comments prior to selecting cleanup actions for the mine sites.

The settlements are part of a larger strategy to address abandoned uranium mines on and near the Navajo Nation. During the Cold War, 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined on or adjacent to the Navajo Nation, leaving more than 500 abandoned mines.  EPA has existing and proposed enforcement agreements valued at $1.7 billion to reduce the highest risks to the Navajo people.  Since 2008, EPA has conducted preliminary investigations at all of the mines, remediated 48 contaminated structures, provided safe drinking water to 3,013 families in partnership with the Indian Health Service, and performed cleanup or stabilization work at nine mines.  In total, funds are available to begin the cleanup process at over 200 abandoned uranium mines, approximately 40% of the abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. This work is a large coordinated effort between federal agencies and the Navajo Nation to address the legacy of uranium contamination. 

In addition to the funds addressing uranium contamination on Navajo Nation, since 1984 the EPA has provided approximately $100 million in grants to Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency to develop and implement environmental pro­grams.

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