EPA Proposes Former Uranium Mining District on Navajo Nation for Superfund National Priorities List
ARIZONA — In an effort to protect public health from contamination, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced this week that it is proposing to add the Lukachukai Mountains Mining District on Navajo Nation to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The Agency is also proposing three additional sites in other parts of the country for the List and adding one site -- in Delaware -- to the List. The NPL comprises sites where releases of contamination pose significant human health and environmental risks.
The Lukachukai Mountains Mining District site is located entirely on the Navajo Nation and consists of over a hundred waste piles scattered primarily in the Cove, Lukachukai, and Round Rock Chapters in northeast Arizona. Contamination in the site stems from prior uranium mining. The EPA received a letter from the former Navajo Nation President in December 2022 in support of listing this site on the NPL, which would be the first ever Navajo site to be placed on the Superfund List.
“The Lukachukai Mountains Mining District is used for ceremonial and medicinal plant gathering, hunting, and livestock grazing, and provides important habitat for wildlife including the threatened Mexican spotted owl,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Adding this site to the National Priorities List would provide federal resources that will greatly enhance cleanup efforts on the Navajo Nation.”
“This is monumental for the Navajo Nation communities of Cove, Red Valley, Lukachukai, Round Rock, and the whole Navajo Nation,” said Cove Chapter President James Benally. “This will help address the legacy of abandoned uranium mine sites on our sacred mountain. We welcome it, on behalf of our grandchildren and generations to come.”
The complexity of the geology, hydrology, and terrain in the Lukachukai Mountains presents uniquely challenging considerations for cleaning up the contamination. EPA has already taken action to reduce some of the most urgent threats within the site. For example, EPA, in coordination with the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, has undertaken or overseen evaluations at many of the mine waste piles to characterize the extent of contamination and to identify and compare cleanup alternatives.
A 60-day public comment period is currently underway to receive input on EPA’s proposal to add the Lukachukai Mountains Mining District site to the NPL, which ends on May 30, 2023. If the Lukachukai site is listed, it will allow EPA to target additional resources toward assessment and cleanup of the site.
Background on Superfund and the National Priorities List:
All the sites being added or proposed to be added to the National Priorities List are in communities with potential environmental justice concerns based on data from EJSCREEN. Nationwide, thousands of contaminated sites, from landfills to processing plants to manufacturing facilities, exist due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed. President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law accelerates EPA’s work to clean up this pollution with a $3.5 billion investment in the Superfund Remedial Program. This historic investment strengthens EPA’s ability to tackle threats to human health and the environment at Superfund National Priorities List sites. The law also reinstates the Superfund chemical excise taxes, making it one of the largest investments in American history to address legacy pollution.
EPA typically proposes sites to the National Priorities List based on a scientific determination of risks to people and the environment, consistent with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. Before EPA adds a site to the National Priorities List, the site must meet EPA’s requirements and be proposed for addition to the list in the Federal Register, subject to a 60-day public comment period. EPA will add the site to the National Priorities List if it continues to meet the listing requirements after the public comment period closes and the agency has responded to any comments.
For Federal Register notices and supporting documents for the National Priorities List and proposed sites, please visit:
New Proposed and New Superfund National Priorities List Sites.