Uranium mining and milling in northwestern New Mexico (NM) impacted soils, stream sediments, surface water, and ground water with elevated levels of radioactivity and toxic heavy metals. Uranium and its radioactive decay products such as radium and radon gas present a significant public health and safety hazard and environmental health risk. The exposure of people and the environment to heavy metals and radionuclides in soil, air, and water in the vicinity of legacy uranium operations in the Grants District requires mitigation through the systematic assessment and cleanup of materials and sites bearing these hazardous contaminants. In August 2010 EPA released the Five-Year Plan Grants Mining District, New Mexico to assess and cleanup hazards from legacy uranium in northwestern NM. An evaluation of the activities in the first five years (2010-2014) of such a large-scale project was performed to determine if there has been measurable progress toward major goals and specific tasks in the Plan. The Six Objectives of the Plan address the following areas: 1. ground water; 2. mines; 3. mills; 4. structures; 5. Jackpile Mine, and 6. biomonitoring. The Plan accomplishments and progress during 2010-2014 toward completion of these six Objectives indicates that Jackpile Mine and Biomonitoring (Objectives 5 and 6, respectively) were achieved. Objectives 3 and 4 (mill sites and residential structures, respectively) show accomplishments and continuing work. Objectives relating to ground water and mine cleanup (Objective 1 and 2) show some progress but these two objectives were not fully achieved. Constraints and complexities related to regulatory practices, uncertainties, financial burden, and health impacts were identified as hindrance to full completion of the Six Objectives. Recommendations to support future work include development of an implementation plan for ground water, full enforcement of state ground water protection regulations, enhanced public involvement, and better collaboration among five-year plan agencies.
Level of Degree
School of Public Administration
First Committee Member (Chair)
Second Committee Member
uranium mining, uranium milling, Grants Mining District, Ambrosia Lake, Bluewater, Milan, San Mateo Creek, radioactivity, ground water, mine waste, environmental cleanup, human health
Dixon, Earle. "THE LEGACY URANIUM MINING AND MILLING CLEANUP PLAN: EVALUATION OF THE EPA FIVE-YEAR PLAN, GRANTS MINING DISTRICT, NEW MEXICO." (2015). https://digitalrepository.unm.edu/padm_etds/8