Tailings pile taints water in Moab area

A report released by the U.S. Department of Energy says the contamination of groundwater beneath the Atlas tailings pile at Moab is widespread, highly concentrated and may continue to discharge into the adjacent Colorado River for hundreds of years.

"This makes it clear that the pile is contaminating more groundwater more intensively than any other uranium tailings pile (in the country)," said Bill Hedden, a former Grand County councilman now working for the Grand Canyon Trust, an environmental group based in Flagstaff, Ariz., that wants the tailings moved.Atlas Corp. officials contend the report helps confirm their position that capping the pile in place - rather than moving it - is the best solution.

"There isn't anything really new being reported," said Atlas spokesman Richard Blubaugh.

The report said some contaminants in the groundwater are in high concentrations. For example, uranium was found to be 23 milligrams per liter, 52 times higher than the groundwater protection standard set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC has proposed capping the tailings to keep additional rainwater from leaching more contaminants into the groundwater.

Other contaminants include ammonia, molybdenum, nitrates and sulfates.

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