Matheson Questions Dept. of Energy Plan for Moab Tailings Cleanup

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Congressman Jim Matheson said Friday that he has many questions about the terms of a new contract awarded for radioactive tailings cleanup at the old Atlas site near Moab. Matheson succeeded in getting Congress to set a 2019 deadline for completion. The Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a five-year contract worth $121.2 million to Portage, Inc. The scope of work is for removal of 3.1 million tons of tailings.

Since remediation work at the site along the banks of the Colorado River began in February 2009, more than 4.6 million tons of the 16 million tons of radioactive mill tailings have been safely removed to a secure, environmentally controlled storage site.

“Congress passed legislation requiring the cleanup to be completed by 2019. I do not understand why DOE issued a five-year contract instead of contracting for the full eight years. Even more concerning is the fact that the scope of work outlined in the contract does not appear to be even close to the level of cleanup required to finish the job on time. I remain committed to seeing that DOE completes this project on the schedule set out by Congress. The health and safety of Utahns as well as the 25 million downstream users of the Colorado River is at stake,” said Matheson. “Taxpayers will also realize savings from a more rapid completion.”

Matheson led a bipartisan, multi-state effort to convince DOE that the 16 million tons of radioactive tailings should be moved away from the banks of the Colorado River, rather than capped in place. Pollution from the pile is leaching into the river and into the groundwater and cannot be halted until the waste is removed and the 435-acre site is restored.

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