Beneath a reservoir on the Colorado River, astride the border between Arizona and Utah, lies a vast pile of uranium tailings. This reservoir, called Lake Powell, is a popular holiday area, but a uranium mill has left behind at least 26,000 tons of waste contaminated by radium, polonium, thorium and bismuth that is yet to be remediated.
Legacy of Mining
The Vanadium Corporation of America built a mill in 1949 where the Colorado River and White Canyon meet for processing uranium ore from a local mine. For around four years, about 20 tons of ore moved through that mill daily.
A ton of ore yielded five to six pounds of uranium. The ore had to be crushed and ground and treated with toxic chemicals such as sulphuric acid to extract the uranium. Nearly every day around 39,900 pounds of uranium ore tailings were dumped outside on the riverbank.
In 1953 the mill closed, and the tailings were simply left where they were. When a dam was built, and water backed up, it was allowed to flow over the tailings, where you can find them today. Millions of people use the Colorado River water that flows out of Lake Powell. Attracting millions of visitors a year, the lake is an important reservoir for water supply and has been severely affected by drought, according to this report in The Guardian. If water levels continue to drop, the radioactive waste could be disturbed with repercussions for health. Radium, for example, is very dangerous and can cause cancer and even kill.
Cleaning up the lake would be an enormous and difficult project. Fortunately, not all remediation is this difficult. If you are thinking about land remediation and would like to find out more, you should talk to experts in this subject such as http://www.ashremediation.co.uk/tank-decommissioning/. A reputable provider will be able to discuss the potential of land remediation and tell you everything you need to know.
With more land desperately needed for housing and other projects, remediation of contaminated sites is an excellent course of action. And removing toxins and restoring areas to their natural state is good for the environment and everyone who lives nearby. In addition, it also gives these areas a new lease of life