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Friday, February 5, 1999
Does your water glow in the dark?
Uranium said to contaminate source for 20 million
Posted: February 5, 1999
1:00 a.m. Eastern
David M. Bresnahan
© 1999 WorldNetDaily.com
The drinking water of 20 million people has been contaminated with radioactive uranium, according to a government watchdog organization.
Toxins from a closed uranium operation have been leaking into the Colorado River at levels 530 times higher than government standards. The tainted drinking water is consumed by people in Las Vegas, Arizona, and all of Southern California, including Los Angeles.
The Project on Government Oversight is currently preparing a report detailing their findings. The report will show that toxins leaking from an old uranium operation are at extremely high levels. Although the federal government is aware of the problem, a solution has not been found because of politics.
The debate, which has been going on for years, is over how to solve the problem. The old Atlas Corporation in Moab, Utah, along the Colorado River currently falls under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The owners are bankrupt, according to the report.
The Department of the Interior, Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service have all studied the problem and made recommendations. They are in agreement that the uranium tailings, which are causing the contamination in the river, must be removed to a safe location.
The owners of Atlas Corporation and the NRC favor covering or putting a cap on the tailings, which is the least expensive approach. While the debate goes on, contamination of drinking water continues.
A report by the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded, "Congressional action or legislation would be required to move the pile to another location." The Project on Government Oversight recommends removing jurisdiction for the site from the NRC and giving it to the Department of Energy to resolve the political debate and move forward.
Their report, expected to be released to Congress very soon, details:
Atlas Corporation wants to limit clean-up expense by putting a cover of rock and sand over the tailings. They do not want to move the tailings away from the river, which would cost significantly more.
Federal regulations make the bankrupt Atlas Corporation liable for all clean-up costs, but they are eligible for a reimbursement of 56% of the expense from the federal government. The NRC estimates it will cost $78 to $101 million more to move the tailings rather than cap them.
The resolution of the problem has been on hold for at least three years. Meanwhile contaminants continue to flow into the groundwater, then to the river, and eventually into the homes of millions of people.
The NRC claims its hands are tied. Officials say they need direction from Congress if they are to do anything other than cap the tailings. The NRC insists that they are restricted in their ability to relocate this dangerous contamination source.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory issued a report last year that estimated what would happen if the tailings are capped instead of being moved. That report claims that it will take 270 years for contaminated ground water to stop from entering the Colorado River.
"Capping the tailings pile as proposed by Atlas Corporation will not prevent further ground water contamination nor clean up the ground water that has already been contaminated," says the Project on Government Oversight in their report.
The DOE would do a better job of cleaning up the uranium tailings than the NRC, according to Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.
"The DOE has the experience, having previously relocated similar sites, to successfully and efficiently clean up this uranium mill tailings site," she explained.
The politics and government foot-dragging are not over, but there are signs of progress. Congress may be asked to take action on the issue before the year is over.
"Representatives Filner, Pelosi, McInnis, and Gutierrez have introduced H.R. 393 which would move the purview of the site from the NRC to the Department of Energy and would require that the tailings pile be relocated. It would also authorize the proper authorities to seek reimbursement for the cost of the reclamation from the Atlas Corporation," explained Brian.
The bill is so new it was not yet available on the House website, and the cosponsors were unavailable for comment.
David M. Bresnahan, a contributing editor for WorldNetDaily.com, is the author of "Cover Up: The Art and Science of Political Deception," and offers a monthly newsletter "Talk USA Investigative Reports." He may be reached through email and also maintains a website.
David M. Bresnahan is an investigative journalist for WorldNetDaily.com