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America’s Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Bread Basket of the World via Truthout

Early in the morning of July 16, 1979, a 20-foot section of the earthen dam blocking the waste pool for the Church Rock Uranium Mill in New Mexico caved in and released 95 million gallons of highly acidic fluid containing 1,100 tons of radioactive material. The fluid and waste flowed into the nearby Puerco River, traveling 80 miles downstream, leaving toxic puddles and backing up local sewers along the way.

Although this release of radiation, thought to be the largest in US history, occurred less than four months after the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, the Church Rock spill received little media attention. In contrast, the Three Mile Island accident made the headlines. And when the residents of Church Rock asked their governor to declare their community a disaster area so they could get recovery assistance, he refused.

What was the difference between the Church Rock spill and the Three Mile Island partial meltdown? Church Rock is situated in the Navajo Nation, one of the areas in the US sacrificed to supply uranium for the Cold War and for nuclear power plants. That area and many others in the Navajo Nation are contaminated to this day. Another sacrifice area is the Great Sioux Nation, a region in the western part of the country comprising parts of 5 states, where thousands of open uranium mine pits continue to release radiation and heavy metals into the air, land and water.

This poisoning of the people in the Navajo and Great Sioux Nations has been going on for decades and has had serious effects on their health. Even today, it is unknown what the full effects are and what the impact is on the rest of the nation and world because the contaminated air and water are not limited by borders.

Most Americans are unaware of the story of uranium mining on tribal lands because it is a difficult story to accept. It is a story that includes the long history of human rights abuses by the United States against native indians and recognition of the full costs of nuclear energy – two stories the government and big energy have suppressed.

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Uranium Mine Pits Continue to Leak Radiation Today

There are currently 1200 abandoned uranium mines in the Navajo Nation and 500 of them require reclamation. The greatest amount of radioactive contamination on Navajo land comes from solid waste called “tailings,” which sits in large open piles, some as tall as 70 feet high, and was incorporated into materials used to build homes. Dust from these piles of waste blows throughout the land causing widespread contamination.

A 2008 study found that “mills and tailings disposal sites caused extensive groundwater contamination by radium, uranium, various trace metals and dissolved solids. One estimate is that 1.2 million acre-feet of groundwater (or enough to fill Elephant Butte Reservoir more than twice) have been contaminated in the Ambrosia Lake-Milan area from historic mine and mill discharges, and less than two-tenths of 1 percent has been treated to reduce contaminant levels.” It is estimated that 30 percent of people living in the Navajo Nation lack access to uncontaminated water.

Read more at  America’s Secret Fukushima Poisoning the Bread Basket of the World

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