GLOBALink | Native American tribe protests U.S. only functioning uranium mill on sacred soil-Xinhua

GLOBALink | Native American tribe protests U.S. only functioning uranium mill on sacred soil

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2022-11-23 16:36:03

   "Children don't play outside anymore. You can smell the sulfur, the air smells really bad," Michael Badback, a Ute Mountain Ute Tribe citizen in the community of White Mesa of the U.S. state of Utah, expressed his grave concern over the impacts of the uranium mill just a few miles from his home.

   The adjacent White Mesa Uranium Mill is the only operating conventional uranium mill in the United States. For 40 years, the mill has processed uranium ore next to the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation in southeastern Utah.

   Local residents have been complaining about health threats to water and air from the mill's toxic containment ponds, radioactive shipping deliveries and smoke stack emissions.

   "If you sits off the main road (of the mill), you can smell the sulfur," Badback told Xinhua in a recent interview at his home.

   "When the wind blows, the wind shifts down this way. It is very dangerous as wind brings many toxic chemicals. We are very concerned," the 54-year-old noted.

   Badback lives with his grandson in a small town just a few miles away from the mill. Around 300 people of Ute Mountain Ute Tribe live in the community. The school bus commutes children back and forth right next to the mill.

   The community has complained about the air quality, the smell from the mill, damage to people's health as well as vegetation and wildlife, and large trucks coming and going from the mill. Other impacts also go unaddressed.

   "Children don't play outside anymore. Some parents come to us and tell us their kids have asthma. They didn't have it before. We don't know what it is due to, might be from the mill. We don't know yet until we get the test done," Badback told Xinhua.

   "That's why we are fighting. That's very difficult for us," he noted.

   The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is in the process of conducting a health evaluation of the community.

   Badback said their drinking water is also polluted. "We don't drink our water. We have to go buy drinking water an hour-and-an-half drive in Colorado. If you leave the water running long enough, it leaves yellow stains in the sink, bowls and bathtubs."

   "You can smell the chemicals from the underground when you turn it (the water) on," Badback said as he turned on the water tap.

   He said the uranium mill also affected wildlife. "We used to hunt rabbits, but we have no more rabbits. I don't know if it is due to smells. Deer drank from the waste pond, and a lot of them got hit along the road."

   A report published by the Grand Canyon Trust earlier this year said radioactive waste from industrial and military facilities has been sent there. Only a small amount of uranium is extracted from the waste, and the leftovers remain at the mill.

   The impacts of toxic and radioactive waste to local communities have prompted protests. In late October, people gathered in White Mesa for an annual peace march against the mill, walking along U.S. Highway 191 for 5 miles to the uranium mill entrance south of Blanding.

   Badback told Xinhua the tribe started the annual peace march four years ago, in order to draw attention from the public and authorities on the mill's impacts.

   "We want it stop running. We will keep fighting. Our lands are not for sale," Badback said.

Produced by Xinhua Global Service


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