O’Halleran Leads Group of Arizona, New Mexico Lawmakers in House Resolution Calling on EPA to Act on Uranium Mine Cleanup

December 3, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) joined a group of lawmakers from Arizona and New Mexico to introduce H.Res 737, a resolution expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must do more to clean up and remediate toxic, abandoned uranium mine sites on the Navajo Nation.

“From World War II until the end of the Cold War, millions of tons of uranium were mined on Navajo lands, exposing mine workers and their families to uranium contamination and deadly radiation. As a result, high rates of cancer, birth defects, and contaminated water sources remain a reality for residents of the Navajo Nation to this day,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “Today, I stand with my colleagues from across the southwest to announce our dissatisfaction with the process, care, and attention given to the cleanup of these mines thus far.”

Currently, there are over 520 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation, only 219 of which have secured settlement agreements with responsible parties to fund cleanup and remediation efforts. The remaining 305 sites continue to pose significant risks to nearby families, wells and aquifers, and surrounding lands.

“I am tired of calling on the U.S. EPA time and time again to do their part to advance this issue,” continued O’Halleran. “This is a public health crisis that we cannot afford to ignore for one more day. I am committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to hold the agency accountable and create real progress for affected families across Arizona’s First District.”

Original co-sponsors of O’Halleran’s resolution include Reps. Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Grijalva (AZ-03), Gallego (AZ-07), Stanton (AZ-09), Haaland (NM-01), Torres Small (NM-02), and Assistant Speaker Luján (NM-03).

“The Navajo Nation knows all too well the devastating consequences uranium mining has had on the health of their people, their land and our larger environment.  The EPA has ignored this public health crisis for far too long—inaction on clean-up puts future generations at risk and devastates the environment forever.  They must act now and we must work together to ensure they do,” said Congresswoman Kirkpatrick.

“Uranium has poisoned the people and the land of Navajo Nation, and the federal government has a responsibility to bring this painful chapter to a close. In October I traveled to Navajo Nation to hear firsthand about what a real cleanup would mean to families, and they made it clear that the time is over for excuses. The EPA and other agencies need to do their job, clean up the mines, and protect future generations rather than passing the buck,” said Congressman Grijalva.

"Heightened cancer rates and contaminated water sources on Navajo lands are painful and enduring reminders that the actions taken generations ago continue to have a profound impact on workers, families and our environment. The Federal government has a responsibility to clean up these abandoned uranium mine sites and turn the tide on this public health crisis," said Congressman Stanton.

“Communities who are at increased risk of losing clean water and developing cancer due to decades of uranium mining deserve justice.  Yet, the mining industry was never required to clean up its own messes and that land is still contaminated.  I’m joining this resolution so that the EPA can live up to its responsibility and focus on cleaning up toxic mining sites left behind on the Navajo Nation,” said Congresswoman Haaland.

“Decades of uranium contamination across the southwest – including within Navajo Nation – pose both major public health risks and a grave environmental injustice. The air and water that communities depend on have been tainted by harmful uranium and radiation, putting vulnerable families and sacred homelands at risk. The Environmental Protection Agency can and must do more to address this public health crisis, clean up abandoned mines, and provide much-needed assistance for impacted communities,” said Assistant Speaker Luján. 

The mission of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment.

View the text of the resolution, here.