Petuuche Gilbert’s statement at EPA meeting in Gallup: NO MORE URANIUM MINING!!

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

By one of Earth Peoples Co-Founders, Petuuche Gilbert.


Protect Mt. Taylor -No more uranium mining on sacred land (left:Petuuche Gilbert (right) Leona Morgan)

Protect Mt. Taylor -No UraniumMining on Sacred Land ! (left:Petuuche Gilbert (right) Leona Morgan)

I am Petuuche Gilbert, Laguna and Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment (LACSE) which is one of five core groups in the MultiCultural Alliance for a Safe Environment ( MASE). MASE is a consortium of indigenous and environmental justice communities that have been adversely impacted by historic uranium mining and milling in the Grants Uranium Belt. This uranium affected area extends from the Rio Puerco of the east to the Rio Puerco of the west, an approximate area of 50 miles wide and 150 miles long. It includes Laguna, Acoma, Grants/Milan, Thoreau, Crownpoint and Churchrock, and other communities. It is served by both Region 6 and 9 of the Environmental Protection Agency.
This region has been affected by 50 years of uranium mining which has left a legacy of harmful environmental impacts. Within this area there were once operating 97 uranium mines and 5 uranium mills. Combined with uranium mining on the Navajo Nation uranium mining in the region has degraded the environment and left a legacy of over a thousand abandoned uranium mines.
Uranium mining and milling has devastated this area we’re talking about today. Thirty-three years ago, an unlined earthen dam at the United Nuclear Corporation mill tailings facility near Churchrock New Mexico, collapsed and released 1,100 tons of radioactive tailings and 94 million gallons of toxic wastewater to the Puerco River. All the legacy mine sites are sources for radioactive hazardous releases to the air, soil and water.
Environmental impacts remain today and communities are still living in a radioactive impacted zone. Let me give two anecdotal stories which occurred near Crownpoint. Several years ago the New Mexico Environment Department held a hearing in the vicinity of Crownpoint. When they were there a wind storm was happening and some of the state staff personnel don air masks. These people were only there for a day while the community people live their daily for all of their lives. At one time a child was seen playing outside near one of the uranium impacted sites. Someone with a Geiger counter was curious and took a radioactive measurement of the child and registered a reading. One last story of people living in a dangerous environment is the picture of a sheep. The sheep is somehow biologically affected and its skin has turned yellow. This picture is always an attention getter at events where we talk about the effects of uranium mining. My main emphasis by telling these stories is that people are living daily in a radioactive contaminated area. The ground, water, and air, are all being affected.
Still, and yet, in this area after decades of uranium mining and its people suffering post traumatic stress syndrome as a result the federal and state governments have not done long-term regional health impact studies. Only recently has there been giving a priority in studying the impacts of uranium upon land and people. The Navajo tribe is doing a birth cohort study with the University of New Mexico. The Environmental Protection Agency and the state of New Mexico along with many stakeholders have a Five Year Plan in place to address health and impacts upon land and water within this region. One of the MASE core groups, Post 71, has done a survey of workers and in the uranium industry in this region and has completed it and has found and documented numerous illness of uranium survival stories. The uranium industry has affected the lives of many, many people in this region and yet there has been little or no scientific studies to see its real impact.
An environmental injustice is occurring before us and people here are living and feeling it. The federal and state agencies must pay attention to the uranium affected environment.
The Laguna Acoma Coalition for a Safe Environment makes several recommendations:
1. There must be a call to acknowledge the rights of Mother Earth to be free of deep drilling and the withdrawal of massive amounts of water required by uranium mining and milling. Groundwater must not be polluted by in-situ mining.

2. Promote the public welfare by protecting the human right to a safe, clean water supply. Urge states to repeal the dewatering act which allows for wasting of precious groundwater and to repeal the archaic mining law of the 1872 Mining Act which allows for a disregard of public welfare.

3. Urge states to prevent new uranium mining and milling until all legacy uranium sites have been reclaimed.

4. Nuclear energy is not a viable form of sustainable development. Begin the phase-out of nuclear reactors and replace them with clean, sustainable energy sources. Nuclear power produces waste problems at the front end and back end of the nuclear fuel cycle.

5. Develop nuclear free zone petitions and declarations for a nuclear free world.

6. States and governments must regulate extractive industries and hold mining corporations accountable for their actions.

7. Contamination from uranium mining and milling are harmful impacts to air, land and water, it has no jurisdiction. This kind of destruction is pervasive and must be addressed by states and the federal government. Regions 6 and 9 must work cooperatively in planning to restore our affected environment to a safe, clean environment for our communities.

8. The federal and state governments must study the removal of radioactive mill tailings away from communities and taken to a permanent repository.

9. The Environmental Protection Agency must implement a Native American public health uranium impact study for this region.

10. EPA should set up a meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NM Environment Department, and Navajo EPA and federal congressional delegation so that lawmakers can understand what regulations are blocking full cleanup of these communities to pre-mining and milling conditions.