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New report says contaminated uranium site more complex than previously thought

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy says that the high levels of uranium at a contaminated site on Wind River Reservation might not flush out of the groundwater naturally in 100 years, like they previously thought.  

Tailings from a uranium mill that functioned at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site in the 1960s left the area’s groundwater with high levels of uranium and the DOE took over management of the site in the late ‘80s.

DOE initiated additional data collection at the site after a flood in 2010 caused uranium levels to spike even higher.  In a new report, the agency says it’s not totally clear where the uranium that caused those spike came from.

Site manager, Bill Dam, says further data collection will be needed to understand how to proceed.                                                                                                                                                                  

Before the flood, we didn’t know what the soil concentrations were to start with,” Dam says. “So our hope is that the flood removed a lot of that uranium that was in the soil. But what we’re saying now is that the concentrations we saw after the flood – you know, we collected in August 2012 – may not have been high enough and we’re going to keep looking for additional sources.” 

The report makes recommendations for potential future work, but Dam says additional data collection will also require a larger budget, something Congress will have to approve.

Dam also says that regular testing at the site shows that potable domestic wells are safe. 

He says the DOE will work with the tribes and their environmental office to figure out the next steps.

You can see the full report here: http://www.lm.doe.gov/Riverton/S09799/S09799_Riverton.pdf

Irina Zhorov is a reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She earned her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from the University of Wyoming. In between, she worked as a photographer and writer for Philadelphia-area and national publications. Her professional interests revolve around environmental and energy reporting and she's reported on mining issues from Wyoming, Mexico, and Bolivia. She's been supported by the Dick and Lynn Cheney Grant for International Study, the Eleanor K. Kambouris Grant, and the Social Justice Research Center Research Grant for her work on Bolivian mining and Uzbek alpinism. Her work has appeared on Voice of America, National Native News, and in Indian Country Today, among other publications.
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