White Mesa Mill - header
Dom Smith/Eco Flight

White Mesa Mill - description

White Mesa Mill - description
Dom Smith/Eco Flight

The Mill Site

Built in 1979 to process uranium ore from the Colorado Plateau, the mill has been in the business of importing radioactive waste called "alternate feed material" since 1987. While Energy Fuels recovers and sells some uranium and vanadium from the waste, their primary source of revenue is the fees associated with storing the toxic materials in the mill's tailings impoundments – large liquid-covered and solid waste pits that are up to eighty acres in size.

White Mesa Mill - Affected Communities

Communities at Risk

The White Mesa Band of the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe – a community of 300 – lives a mere three miles downwind and downgradient of the mill. The surrounding towns of Blanding, Bluff, Monticello, and Moab, Utah, are also connected to the mill by air and water. 

White Mesa Mill - map title

A Radioactive Dump

White Mesa Mill - map

White Mesa map

White Mesa Mill - infographic

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Drums of mixed waste from the Nevada Test Site disposed of at the White Mesa Mill

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Estimated cost to clean up the Moab Uranium Mill

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Number of acres that will need to be reclaimed at mill closure

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Kilometer radius of harm from radon emissions in excess of Clean Air Act standards

White Mesa Mill - map text

For over 25 years, the White Mesa Mill has processed and disposed of some of the most toxic radioactive waste produced in North America. This waste include shipments from Superfund sites, as well as radioactive waste from nuclear test sites.

White Mesa Mil - Environmental title

Environmental Concerns

White Mesa Mill - liners

White Mesa Mill - liners
Dom Smith/Eco Flight

Plastic Liners

Some cells at the White Mesa Mill still use the mill's original tailing impoundments, which were constructed in the early 1980s with a thin plastic liner between two layers of crushed rock. Experts have determined that these liners did not even meet industry best practices in the 1980s, making them obsolete today.

White Mesa Mill - water

White Mesa Mill - water
Blake McCord

Too Little, Too Late

The mill’s leak detection system will not detect a radioactive leak until groundwater has already been contaminated. Currently, both nitrate and chloride plumes contaminate the perched aquifer beneath the mill site. Residents in the communities of White Mesa and Bluff are concerned that the plumes will seep into the underlying Navajo Sandstone aquifer, which provides drinking water to the area.

White Mesa Mill - Health Concerns

Health Concerns

White Mesa Mill - Illegal Radon

The mill emits radioactive and toxic air pollutants, including radon and thoron (gases) and sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (particulates). 

In both 2012 and 2013, the mill was in violation of the Clean Air Act's emissions standard for radon-222, a cancer-causing gas that is emitted from the tailing impoundments. 

White Mesa Mill - odorless, tasteless gas

White Mesa Mill - odorless, tasteless gas

A Cancer-Causing Gas

Radon – an invisible, ordorless, tasteless, radioactive gas – decays into solids that cling to other airborne materials, like blowing dust. If inhaled, these particles make their way into our lungs where they remain for weeks or years, increasing the risk of lung cancer. According to the EPA, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Exposure to these particles can cause many health problems, including birth defects and various types of cancer.

White Mesa Mill - 80 km radius

The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that communities and lands within an 80 km radius of the mill are threatened by radon-222 emissions that exceed Clean Air Act standards. Affected communities include White Mesa, Bluff, Blanding, and Monticello, Utah. 

White Mesa Mill - transport title

Transport Hazards

White Mesa Mill - Trucks

White Mesa Mill - Trucks
Blake McCord

Radioactive Highways

Canvas-covered haul trucks transport uranium from regional mines to the mill, traveling through Colorado Plateau communities along the way. Radioactive waste shipments from across the nation arrive via railroad in Cisco, Utah, where they are offloaded and trucked to I-70. From there, the radioactive waste travels east to Highway 191 and south through the main streets of Moab, Monticello, and Blanding, before arriving at the mill north of the White Mesa Ute community.

 

Our Solutions Title

Our Solutions

White Mesa Mill - solutions

Litigation

In 2014, the Trust sued White Mesa Mill owners over the environmental problems unfolding there. Our lawsuit challenges the mill's radon emission violations, as well as the operation of too many waste pits that threaten to leave taxpayers holding a multi-million dollar bill.

Fix it First

We are working to ensure that the mill does not accept any additional toxic radioactive waste until it fixes the contamination problems on the mill site. Currently, state regulators are evaluating whether to allow the mill to process waste from a toxic site in Gore, Oklahoma

Engage Agencies

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently evaluating whether to strengthen or loosen the regulations that apply to the mill. The Trust is advocating for stronger regulations that protect public and environmental health from toxic radioactive contamination.  

White Mesa Mill Blog

06/2/17

Raise your voice. The state of Utah considers three key licensing decisions to allow the White Mesa uranium mill to continue operating.

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10/19/16

The White Mesa Mill’s radioactive tailings impoundments are perched above the groundwater supply for most of southeastern Utah. Some worry the liners in the older impoundments may be leaking.

Read More
06/13/16

Here, we fact-check recent statements about environmental quality violations happening at White Mesa Mill.

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