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Cleaning Up Uranium in the Navajo Nation


Cleanup of uranium-tainted Skyline Mine site within Navajo Nation is underway; it's a welcome undertaking, reports the Salt Lake Tribune, but residents still have some cause for concern.

Jason Musante, EPA's on-scene coordinator for the $6 million cleanup, told Tribune reporter Judy Fahys, "I've got to make this hazard go away as soon as possible. ... It's already been too long." Making the hazard go away entails putting the radioactive material into superstrong plastic bins buried under the ground; Musante describes the vessels as "giant Tupperware in the ground."

For Elsie Mae Begay, who lives nearby, some action is better than no action. Her family's radiation problems were documented in the 2000 film The Return of Navajo Boy. The eight-sided hogan in which Begay and her family had lived was found to have a level of radiation more than 80 time higher than EPA limits for uranium exposure.

During the cleanup, Elsie May Begay has been temporarily relocated, but she told the Tribune reporter that she plans to move back to her home after the work is done—despite Musante's admission that the land "can never go back to what it was before."