Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 15, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:00 pm

Eleven million tons.  That is the quantity of uranium mill tailings that I drive past two to four times daily, just a mile outside park HQ.  If you were to look at a map of every uranium mine (even if it is just a petrified log harvested for the uranium around it) in the U.S., the area around Moab is an incredible pack of solid X’s.  This is a land that saw a huge boom when one Charlie Steen discovered a high grade ore in them thar hills in the 1950s, right when the U.S. government needed a steady supply for the Cold War.  

There is one small detail, however, that makes these tailings more problematic than just their uranium leftovers.  The Colorado River now runs within 300 yards of this huge man-made mountain, so the tailings sit in its flood plain!!  One good flood… everything downstream will glow for a very, very long time.  SOOOO… since the original owner of the tailings went bankrupt in the 1980s (after Three Mile Island and Chernobyl), the DOE has assumed ownership and now is constructing an elaborate transfer plan to move all eleven million tons by rail to a shale site 30 miles north.  “Impermeable” shale, they say.  This relocation plan will take anywhere from ten to fifty years.

Let us not think that our actions do not have consequences.

1 Comment »

  1. Having seen the ravages left by gold mining in Alaska, I would place mining companies somewhere below used car salesmen and politicians when it comes to responsibility.
    A further problem that is growing whilst the government dwaddles its way to a supposed solution is the dust. Wind-borne dust containing uranium has caused measurable problems in populations living within the downwind plume from this radioactive heap.
    Mines in Colorado that were abandoned without being sealed have been accumulating rainwater and runoff for more than a century. Water acting on the residual sulfide ores produces sulfuric acid which has found its way into many of the natural streams with devastating effects on aquatic life.
    Mining is (you’ll excuse the expression) the pits . . .

    Comment by Dad — June 17, 2009 @ 10:31 am | Reply

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