Native Sun News: Pine Ridge residents air concerns about water

The following story was written and reported by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News Health & Environment Editor. All content © Native Sun News.

The Crow Butte Resources Inc. uranium mine in Nebraska, about 40 miles south of the border of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Photo from Nuclear Street

Pine Ridge residents question cleanliness of drinking water
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News
Health and Environmental Editor

Earlier: Native Sun News: EPA hears Native views about uranium mining

PINE RIDGE –– “The people at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are severely impacted by the Crow Butte operations at Crawford, Nebraska, and will be impacted by the new EPA regulations on groundwater protection and monitoring,” noted requester David Frankel, an attorney for Western Nebraska Resources Council, Owe Aku (Bring Back the Way), Aligning for Responsible Mining, and Consolidated Interveners in the hearings on permits requested by Uranerz former parent company, Canada-based Cameco and by Canada-based Azarga Uranium Corp. (formerly Powertech Uranium Corp.)

“Fairness dictates that the people of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, the people of Fall River and Custer County, South Dakota, and the people of Dawes County, Nebraska, be afforded the opportunity to make their views known at a public hearing just like the people in Texas and Wyoming,” Frankel said.

Availing herself of the hearings opportunity, Oglala Lakota tribal member Nancy Kile cited dozens of documented violations by Cameco’s subsidiaries in Nebraska and Wyoming. One was “an undetected poisonous spill into an underground source of drinking water that lasted for 2 1/2 years, spanning from July 1, 2003 through March 31, 2006,” she testified.

“I think about neighbors, my peers and school mates that treated with cancer, some treated successfully, but others died early in their lives,” she said. “Please, do enact uranium monitoring timelines that extend far into the future to ensure that the foreign owned Cameco is accountable to the people who remain living on the land that the uranium industry exploits for profit.”

Larry Teahon, manager of Safety, Health, Environment and Quality for Cameco Resources Crow Butte in situ facilities, said the mines and mills have been operating for 24 years, and the water conditions at one of the closed units remains stable 12 years later.

“In these 24 years, we have never polluted a neighbor’s well. Contaminants from our mining operation have never been detected downstream in surface waters,” he said.

Black Hills resident Tatyana Novikova, a Belarusian citizen who has survived the impacts of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, testified that the rules are a “first step in the right direction.”

They should be improved to more fully address contamination and to detail “in which cases the extraction activity has to be stopped, as well as the conditions in which the permission for extraction can be denied,” she said.

Another Black Hills resident, nuclear industry consultant Edward Harvey told regulators that in situ mining should be banned at any site where water migration occurs between aquifers and where isolation from the adjacent aquifers is not assured.

“Precise mapping of the mining zone needs to be accomplished to identify all faults and fractures in the area prior to mining. Without this information, probable pathways for migration remain unknown,” he warned.

“Assurance bond levels should be consistent with documented remediation costs at known sites such as the Navajo Nation cleanup efforts in New Mexico, the Edgemont, South Dakota mill tailings, etc.,” he continued. “Daily reports of all monitoring wells must be required to minimize the environmental damage associated with excursions,” he added. “Excursions” is industry-speak for leaks and spills.

Charmaine White Face, coordinator of the non-profit Defenders of the Black Hills, said the groundwater chemistry “should be monitored by an independent monitor at least once per year on an unannounced basis, not left to self-monitoring by the ISR operation, in order to avoid any question of improper or late reporting.”

She called for the filing of criminal charges for late reporting of accidents and excursions, noting that “more and more scientists and medical researchers are concluding that there is no safe dose of nuclear radiation to humans and other living systems.”

In EPA’s initial public information meetings about the rulemaking five years ago, speakers entreated the agency to consider impacts to the Navajo Nation and other indigenous communities, specifically concerning drinking water and a proposal of four new ISL facilities on Navajo lands.

People raised environmental justice concerns, primarily about the ability to participate in regulatory review processes or related meetings, according to EPA documentation.

However, no in situ mining has begun in the Navajo Nation. This round of hearings ended in Casper, at the center of the most intensive in situ mining area in the country.

Written comments on the regulations are being accepted through May 27, at, or by email at a-and-r-docket@ They can be sent by fax to 202-566-9744 or mailed to: Air and Radiation Docket, Environmental Protection Agency, Mailcode: 2822T, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave. NW., Washington, DC 20460.

Comments should reference Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2012-0788. Background information is available at the following Internet address:

(Contact Talli Nauman at

Copyright permission Native Sun News

Join the Conversation