Addressing Uranium Contaminated Structures
- How did Structures on Navajo Nation Become Contaminated?
- How is Structure Contamination Being Addressed?
EPA and the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency’s (NNEPA) Contaminated Structures Program evaluates structures on Navajo Nation that may have been constructed using abandoned mine materials or built on or near abandoned mines. The Contaminated Structures Program is responsible for conducting evaluations of potentially contaminated structures, yards and material, as well as removal and cleanup of contaminated structures and materials if there is an exposure risk. The program is for Navajo residents living close to mines or who know their home was built with contaminated materials. Participation in the program is voluntary and at no cost to the resident.
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In some cases it was found that older homes and structures were built using abandoned mining materials potentially leading to exposure exceeding background (naturally occurring) levels. These materials include ore and waste rock used for foundations, walls, or fireplaces; mine tailings mixed into cement used for foundations, floors, and cinder block walls; and other contaminated building materials (wood, metal, etc.) that people may have unknowingly salvaged from the abandoned uranium mine areas.
EPA and NNEPA evaluates structures and yards with instruments that detect radiation contamination. Since 2008, the program has surveyed over 1,000 homes and EPA has removed contamination from 60 residential yards and completed removals of 47 structures. EPA and NNEPA coordinate closely to complete radiological assessments. EPA makes the final determination on the structures and/or yards that require cleanup. EPA discusses the issue with the resident in order to take appropriate action on structures with elevated radiation levels under Superfund, or the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), authority. To begin the process the resident must contact NNEPA Superfund Office at (800) 314-1846 to learn if you qualify for a structure and/or yard survey.