Nine hazardous waste sites added, eight proposed nationally (DALLAS – December 11, 2013) The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the Jackpile-Paguate Uranium Mine in Laguna Pueblo in Cibola County, NM, has been added to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites, a list of sites that pose risks to people’s health and the environment.
Superfund is the federal program that investigates and cleans up the most complex, uncontrolled or abandoned hazardous waste sites in the country. About 40 miles west of Albuquerque, the mine lies in an area of canyons and arroyos near the village of Paguate. Anaconda Minerals Company operated the 7,868-acre site from 1953 to 1982, leaving open pits, waste dumps, and ore stockpiles. Contaminants found at the site include uranium, arsenic, barium, chromium, and lead. While previous attempts to clean up the site have been made, an assessment in 2007 determined these were not enough.
“New Mexico is blessed with abundant resources, and they must be used with respect and care for the surrounding environment and residents,” said EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry.
“EPA will continue to work with the state and other stakeholders to ensure the communities of Laguna Pueblo and Paguate get the protections they deserve.”
The nearby Rio Paguate and Paguate Reservoir have shown elevated levels of isotopic uranium, which could affect cultural and ceremonial uses of these water bodies. Although the site had undergone reclamation previously, a 2007 report concluded that effort left several issues unaddressed as releases from the mine are still occurring.
EPA will begin negotiating with potentially responsible parties to fund and conduct site assessment and cleanup activities (with oversight from EPA). Since 1983, EPA has listed 1,694 sites on the NPL. At 1,147 or 68 percent of NPL sites, all cleanup remedies are in place. Approximately 645 or 38 percent of NPL sites have all necessary long-term protections in place, which means EPA considers the sites protective for redevelopment or reuse.
More information on the Superfund NPL is available at: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/current.htm