SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled with United Nuclear Corporation and General Electric, UNC's indirect parent corporation, requiring the companies to immediately clean up a portion of radium-contaminated soil released from the Northeast Church Rock Mine Site near Gallup, N.M.
The settlement requires UNC to excavate radium-contaminated soil in an area closest to where people live and provide temporary housing for three homes that are within or adjacent to the area being addressed.
UNC will also clear contaminated sediments out of the arroyo or wash. In addition, the companies have agreed to reimburse the EPA up to $1.5 million in past response costs at the mine, and additional costs the EPA may incur later.
"This cleanup will protect human health and the environment," said Keith Takata, the EPA's Superfund director for the Pacific Southwest region. "This soil removal will prevent direct human contact with the radium-contaminated soil, and will expedite the cleanup at the mine site."
The EPA will oversee work required of UNC to remove and transport contaminated soils temporarily to the Northeast Church Rock Mine, and regrade the waste pile so it drains back to the mine. The Navajo Nation EPA will continue to work with the EPA in reviewing cleanup proposals and actions.
The 125-acre Northeast Church Rock Mine site operated from approximately 1967 to 1982, and includes two underground uranium shafts, waste piles, several surface ponds and buried waste.
In June, the EPA released to the public various cleanup options for the entire mine site. The public comment period, which was recently extended, closes Sept. 9.
Exposure to elevated levels of radium over a long period of time may result in harmful effects including anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, and cancer, especially bone cancer.
For more information, visit www.epa.gov/region9/necr.