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Native Sun News: Largest radioactive spill was on Navajo Nation






United Nuclear Corp.’s uranium mill tailings spill at Church Rock in the Navajo Nation, the largest radioactive materials release in U.S. history, resulted in a Superfund site, prompting members of the Diné Nation to testify about being denied equal access to quality drinking water for decades. Photo courtesy of Lea Rekow

Largest radioactive spill in U.S. history on Navajo Nation recalled
By Talli Nauman
Health & Environment Editor
Native Sun News
www.nsweekly.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. –– Anticipating that “a large scale radiation contamination incident could impact the United States,” the Environmental Protection Agency is giving the public until July 25 to comment on proposed guidelines for emergency drinking water safety.

The guidelines, or Protective Action Guides (PAGs) are supposed to “help federal, state, local, tribal officials and public water systems make decisions about use of water during radiological emergencies.”

The EPA “seeks to balance the goal of keeping radiation doses as low as possible with the practical and logistical challenges of providing alternative drinking water during the response to a disaster.”

The agency’s proposal adds recommendations to the ones in place since 2013, with a goal of prioritizing protection for infants, children and pregnant or nursing women – in other words, people “in the most sensitive life stages,” it says.

In cases in which first responders must decide how to allocate a water supply compromised by a radiation contamination event, the guidelines suggest relaxing lower-risk population members’ radiation levels in water five times more than the more sensitive population in the event that a scarcity of high quality water arises.

One such event was United Nuclear Corp.’s uranium mill tailings spill at Church Rock in the Navajo Nation, where some 94 million gallons of radioactive liquid broke the dam of an evaporation pond, washing into the Rio Puerco channel, which carried it downstream past Gallup, New Mexico, and all the way to Winslow, Ariz.

Documented as the largest radioactive materials release in U.S. history, the disaster 37 years ago, in July 1979, resulted in a Superfund site, prompting members of the Diné from the nearby Red Water Pond Road Community to testify in April 2016 to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about being denied equal access to quality drinking water for decades.


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(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.com)

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