Dec 28, 2000

Clinton Takes Action to Remove Radioactive Waste Pile From Banks of Colorado River

President Clinton has signed the Floyd G. Spence National Defense Authorization Act, so that a huge uranium pile (130 acres large and 110 feet high) will be moved from its location on the northern bank of the Colorado River near Moab, Utah, away from the banks of a primary drinking water source for 17 million Southern Californians.
Metropolitan Water District chairman Phillip J. Pace praised the legislation as a boon for public health. "We have fought hard to bring attention to this situation and find a solution that will protect the long-term water quality for 30 percent of Southern California's drinking water supply … Removing the pile is the permanent solution to a long-standing threat," Pace said.
It is estimated that 28,000 gallons of hazardous chemicals and radioactive contamination leak into the Colorado River each day. The Act authorizes $300 million in federal funds to remove the leaking pile.
"Key to the passage of this legislation was the bipartisan effort of congressional leaders throughout the Southwest," said Pace. "When it comes to protecting drinking water quality and cleaning up the environment, it was agreed that there can be no political lines drawn. The result is legislation that has far-reaching benefits from Utah to California and into generations to come."
Pace praised the efforts of U.S. Rep. Grace Napolitano and Reps. Bob Filner, George Miller, and Chris Cannon in initiating and accelerating passage of the Act.
Since the 1950s, a privately owned mill processed uranium ore for military and other government defense uses before closing in 1984. Radioactive waste was dumped into an unlined pond that eventually swelled to 10.5 million tons.
A plan to remove the uranium mill tailings was first proposed in January of this year by U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson when he traveled to the Ute Indian Tribe Reservation and to Moab. The plan involves returning thousands of acres of land to the Utes in exchange for a portion of royalties from future energy production on the land to be used for the clean-up effort.
The mill owner (the now bankrupt Atlas Corporation) had proposed covering the pile with a clay and rock cap. However, research by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory determined that seepage would still continue.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a consortium of 27 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water recycling, desalination, conservation, storage, and other water management programs.
SOURCE: Business Wire