Defenders of the Black Hills want old uranium mines cleaned up
Protesters urge state to clean up old uranium mines Argus Leader 21 Apr 14 Nora Hertel, Associated Press PIERRE – A South Dakota group says old uranium mines across the state and U.S. are contaminating water and the air with radioactive chemicals. Defenders of the Black Hills is helping to lead an effort to educate people and clean up old uranium mines across the country with an Earth Day event today.
The event is part of a “Clean Up The Mines” project launched on Earth Day. Charmaine White Face, founder and coordinator for Defenders of the Black Hills, said the river, among others, contains runoff from abandoned uranium mines in South Dakota and Wyoming. Most of the 10,000 abandoned uranium mines are in the western U.S., including more than 250 in South Dakota.
White Face, a former science teacher, said the issue came to her attention more than 10 years ago, but she didn’t understand the extent of it.
“We’ve been hollering about this to the state and anybody that would listen,” White Face said. “The state could do quite a bit if they would.”
She said some of the mines in question are on private land and some on federal land, including a large percentage around Mount Rushmore.
“All those 2 million visitors (a year) to Mount Rushmore, they’re breathing in radioactive dust and they don’t even know it,” White Face said.
Mike Cepak, an engineering manager with the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the state doesn’t have an abandoned mine program. He said the U.S. Forest Service has reclaimed some mines in the western part of the state, but the process is expensive. It involves rearranging drainage so water doesn’t pass through the mine, filling it in and returning vegetation to the area.
“It’s mainly a funding problem,” Cepak said……….
On the potential health risks of uranium exposure, but White Face attributes it to cases of cancer and brain tumors in the Northern Plains.
She’s concerned that people don’t realize the number of old mines in the state and their potential effects. White Face has given speeches on the East Coast to drum up support for federal legislation that her group is collaborating on.
Defenders of the Black Hills is working with a member of Congress to draft legislation mandating mine reclamation. White Face said they’re on the fourth draft. She hopes it will be complete in a few weeks and sent to Washington, D.C., to be reviewed then presented as a bill for consideration. http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2014/04/22/protesters-urge-state-clean-old-uranium-mines/7995325/
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