MOAB, Utah — Before Moab was a Mecca for outdoor recreation in Utah, it was the hub of cold war uranium mining; and in the rush to process the ore for nuclear weapons, officials made a terrible decision we’re still paying for.
That decision made in 1956 was to build a uranium processing mill along the banks of the most important river in the American Southwest: the Colorado River.
“When they established a mill, there wasn’t very much thought given to protecting the river,” said Russell McCallister, the director of the federal cleanup.
The Colorado provides water to tens of millions of people and millions of acres of crops downstream.
The process left behind waste products and tailings — that’s a radioactive sand-like material — that was 80 feet thick by 1998, when the mill owner went bankrupt. That left the federal government responsible for the toxic mess.
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