EPA to Award $220M for Mine Cleanup on Navajo Nation

Wed April 24, 2019 - West Edition #9
U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

The EPA plans to award multiple contracts to address the legacy of uranium contamination from abandoned mines in the Navajo Nation area.
(EPA photo)
The EPA plans to award multiple contracts to address the legacy of uranium contamination from abandoned mines in the Navajo Nation area. (EPA photo)

U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to award multiple contracts worth an estimated $220 million over a five-year period to address the legacy of uranium contamination from abandoned mines in the Navajo Nation area. The Navajo Area Abandoned Mines Response and Construction Services (AMRCS) contract, which is currently open for proposals exclusively from small businesses, will provide cleanup, response, and construction services to EPA at and near former uranium mine sites in the Navajo and Grants, N.M., Mining District areas.

During World War II and the Cold War, the federal government relied on extensive uranium prospecting and development throughout the country and especially in uranium-rich areas of the Southwest, leaving more than 500 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation — including 145 in New Mexico. The resulting radiological contamination created a legacy of sickness and pollution, with Navajo communities suffering some of the worst contamination.

"Small businesses drive New Mexico's economy forward, and I welcome the EPA's commitment to increasing contracts for them as it works to address the terrible legacy of uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation," said Udall, vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing funding for the EPA. "The federal government must coordinate closely with state and Tribal governments to prioritize cleanup and safeguard public health. These contracts will serve as an important step in the right direction — providing much-needed resources to clean up abandoned mines, creating jobs in Native communities, and helping to right a historic injustice done to the Navajo people, the surrounding communities, and the environment."

"I've toured some of the abandoned uranium mines that pose a serious public health threat in Navajo communities," said Heinrich. "I am proud to help provide much needed resources to support cleanup and reclamation. I am especially pleased that these contracts will be going to local small businesses and workers in impacted communities. This region was central to the mining and processing of uranium during the Cold War. But we have long neglected our duty to these communities to clean up the dangerous waste that was left behind. I remain committed to righting this wrong and also overhauling our nation's federal hardrock mining policies to safeguard our land, water, and families from future mining pollution and contamination."

"The scars from uranium contamination and abandoned mines in the southwest are still impacting our communities, lands and waters," said Luján. "I appreciate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to address this contamination and provide much needed support to the impacted communities and the Navajo Nation by empowering small businesses to clean up and provide response and construction services to the EPA. The Navajo Nation was hit especially hard by the pollution and sickness caused by these legacy industries and it is the Federal government's responsibility to coordinate with state and tribal governments to make these communities whole."

Udall, Heinrich, and Luján have fought throughout their careers for resources to clean up the legacy of uranium mining in New Mexico. In 2013, they introduced legislation in the Senate and House to amend the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 in order to help state and Tribal governments complete high-priority uranium mine cleanup projects with resources from the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) fund. Udall, Heinrich and Luján also have supported legislation to expand Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) eligibility to post-1971 uranium workers in New Mexico.

The Request for Proposal can be found at fedconnect.net in the "Public Opportunities" section by searching Reference Number 68HE0918R0014. Contract proposals will be accepted through May 28, 2019.

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