CHARACTERIZATION OF URANIUM IN SOILS COLLECTED NEAR AN ABANDONED MINE SITE ON THE NAVAJO RESERVATION

picture of Andee Lister presenting his/her poster: CHARACTERIZATION OF URANIUM IN SOILS COLLECTED NEAR AN ABANDONED MINE SITE ON THE NAVAJO RESERVATION

Andee Lister , Marsha Bitsui, Camisa John, Jani C. Ingram

CHARACTERIZATION OF URANIUM IN SOILS COLLECTED NEAR AN ABANDONED MINE SITE ON THE NAVAJO RESERVATION

On the Navajo Reservation, located in Arizona and New Mexico, there are more than 500 abandoned uranium mines. In the state of New Mexico there are two communities that are in close proximity of each other, Pinedale and Church Rock, where there are two abandoned mines, the Northeast Church Rock Mine and the Quivira Mine. The Northeast Church Rock Mine is located at the northern end of state highway 566, approximately seventeen miles northeast of Gallup, NM. In addition, there is also the Quivira Mine, which is located north of highway 566 and approximately twenty miles northeast of Gallup, NM. Furthermore, the United Nuclear Corporation from 1967 to 1982 operated the Northeast Church Rock Mine. During that time approximately 3.5 million tons of ore was removed, making this the second highest producing mine on the Navajo Reservation. The Kerr McGee Corporation from 1974-1985 operated the Quivira Mines; approximately 5 million pounds were processed from this mine during that time. As a result, the Northeast Church Rock mine and the Quivira Mine were major contributors of uranium contamination in the soil. The purpose of this study was to determine the amount of uranium in the soil collected to identify high-risk exposure in the area near the abandoned Northeast Church Rock Mine and Quivira Mine. Soil samples were collected from Pinedale, where under ground mining occurred. The samples were crushed, extracted with acids, and then digested to determine the total amount of uranium content in the soil. Furthermore, the amount of uranium in the soil was determined by the use of an Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICP-MS). For the most part, the soil samples have been found to be above natural background levels of uranium near the areas of the abandoned mines. The elevated levels of uranium in the soil suggest there is contamination in the area near the abandoned mines, which enhances the exposure to uranium and a potential to affect human health for both the Pinedale and Church Rock communities.  We acknowledge the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention funded by the National Cancer Institute for supporting this work.

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