Saturday, March 31, 2012

EPA slow to clean up uranium mines poisoning Navajo territory

This story in the New York Times, dateline Cameron, Arizona, highlights a problem of uranium contamination in the so-called "Four Corners" area, including in Navajo Nation territory.  Here's an excerpt:
The abandoned mine here, about 60 miles east of the Grand Canyon, joins the list of hundreds of such sites identified across the 27,000 miles of Navajo territory in Arizona, Utah and New Mexico that are the legacy of shoddy mining practices and federal neglect.  From the 1940s through the 1980s, the mines supplied critical materials to the nation's nuclear weapons program.  
Not surprisingly, perhaps, American Indians here are struggling to get the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up these sites.  Here is a comment on that struggle from Doug Brugge, a public health professor at Tufts University medical school who is an expert on uranium:
If this level of radioactivity were found in a middle-class suburb, the response would be immediate and aggressive.  The site is remote, but there are obviously people spending time on it.  Don't they deserve some concern?  
Brugge's comment, with its reference to remoteness, suggests both an "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon, as well as a spatial inequality--inflected with racism, presumably--in relation to the EPA's failures in this place.  

Other posts about uranium mining in the Southwest are available under "the Southwest" label.   

No comments: