Riverton uranium mill

US Department of Energy

The Department of Energy says that the high levels of uranium at a contaminated site on Wind River Reservation might not flush out of the groundwater naturally in 100 years, like they previously thought.  

Tailings from a uranium mill that functioned at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act site in the 1960s left the area’s groundwater with high levels of uranium and the DOE took over management of the site in the late ‘80s.

The US Department of Energy has released data from sampling the agency did at the Riverton Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Site in August. The area, which is on the Wind River Indian Reservation, was contaminated with uranium and vanadium in the late 1950s  and early 1960s, when a uranium mill processed ore there. In the ‘90s the DOE recommended waiting for natural dissolution to clean the site, and levels of contamination seemed to be diminishing predictably until a big flood in 2010.

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With only a week to go until the legislative session is over, Wyoming lawmakers are reviewing a number of bills, including a joint resolution requesting Congress to provide for increased monitoring and funding for remediation of the Riverton uranium mill tailings site. Tailings constitute waste left over from mining operations. Last year we brought you a story about the site in which the Department of Energy released data showing that uranium levels in the area had spiked as high as 100 times the legal limit, and while legislative action on the issue may sound good, it’s bringing up a lot of questions, and anger. Wyoming Public Radio’s Tristan Ahtone reports.