Friday, August 14, 2009

Town Ceases to Exist After Superfund Cleanup

Notice the names of these former uranium mining/milling towns: Naturita...Nucla...Uravan. Don't they sound happy? Patriotic? Owned by the uranium industry?

Uravan no longer exists. Exxcept for one building, the entire town was declared part of the Uravan SuperFund site and destroyed.

Could this happen in Virignia?

Uravan once vital to security of United States

Herald Denver Bureau

URAVAN - The sign outside Naturita reads "Uravan 15."

The town still appears on official Colorado maps. But 15 miles north of Naturita, there's no sign on the road and few clues this once was a hopping town with a community center, a soda fountain and a swimming pool. The childhood memories of many residents of Nucla and Naturita were made here.

All that's left now is a flat spot on the ground surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, overflown by sparrows and serenaded by crickets.

The only clue to the labors of the men and women who used to live here is the barbed wire that surrounds the whole site and the metal signs with the universal symbol for radiation, reading: "ANY AREA OR CONTAINER ON THIS PROPERTY MAY CONTAIN RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS."

Other than one office building across the San Miguel River, the rest is gone.

Uravan once was vital to national security. Standard Chemical founded the town as the Joe Jr. Camp, a center of radium mining and milling.

In World War II, the military moved in to scour the tailings piles for uranium to build the first atomic bombs.

The camp was so secret that a young man from Nucla, just 20 miles away, was stationed there, but he wasn't allowed to tell his family until after the war, said Marie Templeton of the Rimrocker Historical Society.

After the war, Uravan boomed until the 1980s as a company town run by United States Vanadium and later by Union Carbide.

Production ended in 1984, and Umetco - a local subsidiary of Union Carbide - began a government-supervised cleanup. The whole town became a federal Superfund site. (emphases mine...SB)

The cleanup formally ended last year, although monitoring continues.

What It Took...

To clean up the former town of Uravan, the following work was done, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Demolition and removal of about 50 major mill facility structures and buildings, including the process systems and circuits, and removal of more than 260 buildings.

Removal and cleanup of dispersed materials and contaminated soil from approximately 400 acres.

Relocation of more than 3 million cubic yards of mill wastes and contaminated materials.

Construction of waste and tailing repository covers, liquid evaporation and retention ponds, and permanent runoff control structures – using more than 1.7 million cubic yards of earthen materials.

Construction of five double-lined ponds (totaling 40 acres) for the evaporation of hillside seepage, tailing-pile seepage and extracted groundwater.

Construction and use of a new repository capable of disposing more than 1.8 million cubic yards of evaporative pond demolition debris and radioactive waste.

Collection of more than 70 million gallons of hillside and tailing seepage, containing approximately 6,000 tons of contaminated inorganic compounds.

Extraction of about 245 million gallons of contaminated liquids from the groundwater with the removal of about 14,500 tons of contaminated inorganic compounds.

Removal of contaminated materials from the dumps.

(This article, and a few above and below it, are parts of a current series by Joe Hanel, Durango Herald.)

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