Pacific Southwest, Region 9
Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations
Addressing Uranium Contamination
on the Navajo Nation
Northeast Church Rock Mine (NECR)
Located near Gallup, New Mexico, NECR is the highest priority abandoned mine cleanup in the Navajo Nation. The mine adjoins the United Nuclear Corporation (UNC) uranium mill site, a Superfund site managed jointly by EPA Region 6 and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The mine is mostly on Navajo tribal trust land, while the mill is on private fee land. At the request of the Navajo Nation, EPA is using Superfund authority to investigate and clean up the NECR mine site, in coordination with the existing adjacent Superfund site clean up.
After identifying a large volume of radium-contaminated soil, in 2007 EPA took emergency action to remove 6,500 cubic yards of soils from around four residences with the highest contamination levels. EPA spent $990,000 on the excavation, and required UNC to safely dispose of the soils at an additional cost of $1.3 million.
EPA has conducted or has ordered a series of removal actions to address the contamination of residential yards and lands of the Red Water Pond community. This small community lies between the NECR Mine, the nearby NE Church Rock "Quivira" Mine, and an old uranium mill site. Former uranium mining and milling have contributed to the contamination of the community's yards, arroyos, a local road, and groundwater. In all, the removal actions have removed over 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated soils. EPA's goal is to work collaboratively with the community so that the cleanup for the remainder of the site fully considers the community's interests.
In 2011, EPA announced its approval and commitment to clean up the Northeast Church Rock Mine, the largest and highest priority uranium mine on the Navajo Nation. The cleanup will include removal of approximately 1.4 million tons of radium and uranium contaminated soil and will employ the most stringent standards in the country. The cleanup will place the contaminated soil in a lined and capped facility. The multi-year cleanup will be conducted in several phases.
For more information about Superfund activities at this site, see North East Church Rock Mine Cleanup.