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Contact Superfund, Pacific Southwest

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Addressing Uranium Contamination
on the Navajo Nation

What's New

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"Cleanups in my Community"

Shiprock - Navajo Nation
Shiprock on the Navajo Nation in San Juan County, New Mexico

Introduction

The lands of the Navajo Nation include 27,000 square miles spread over three states in the Four Corners area. The unique geology of these lands makes them rich in uranium, a radioactive ore in high demand after the development of atomic power and weapons at the close of World War II in the 1940s.

From 1944 to 1986, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Nation. Many Navajo people worked the mines, often living and raising families in close proximity to the mines and mills.

Today the mines are closed, but a legacy of uranium contamination remains, including over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Potential health effects include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, as well as bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water.

US EPA maintains a strong partnership with the Navajo Nation and, since 1994, the Superfund Program has provided technical assistance and funding to assess potentially contaminated sites and develop a response. In August 2007, the Superfund Program compiled a Comprehensive Database and Atlas assessments of all known uranium mines on the Navajo Nation.

In October 2007, at the request of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, EPA, along with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Indian Health Service (IHS) developed a coordinated Five-Year Plan (PDF) (2 pp, 1.0M, About PDF) to address uranium contamination in consultation with Navajo Nation EPA.

The lands of the Navajo Nation include scenic mountains, mesas and canyons spread over three states in the Four Corners area.
Larger Map

The Five-Year Plan is the first coordinated approach developed by five federal agencies. This landmark plan outlined a strategy for addressing the most urgent risks on the reservation. As the five-year period came to an end in 2012, US EPA and partner agencies prepared a report describing the work completed between 2008 and 2012. See the Five-Year Report for details about what was completed during this period. In addition, all agencies have committed to developing another Five-Year Plan to continue the important activities to protect human health and the environment.

Although the legacy of uranium mining is widespread and will take many years to address completely, the collaborative effort of US EPA, other federal agencies and the Navajo Nation will bring an unprecedented level of support and protection for the people at risk from these sites. Much work remains to be done, and US EPA is committed to working with the Navajo Nation to remove the most immediate contamination risks and to find permanent solutions to the remaining contamination on Navajo lands.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Canyon de Chelly National Monument on the Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona

Related Information

Contact Information

Secody Hubbard
(Hubbard.Secody@epa.gov)
US EPA, SFD 6-3
75 Hawthorne St
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 972-3241
Toll Free 1 (800) 231-3075
Fax (415) 947-3528

Lillie Lane
(hozhoogo_nasha@yahoo.com)
Navajo Nation EPA
P.O. Box 339
Window Rock, Arizona 86515
(928) 871-6092

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