LM Collaboration with Tribal Nations and National Work Groups
The Office of Legacy Management works closely with Native American and Alaska Native stakeholders who are partners in our commitment to long-term monitoring and surveillance. We routinely collaborate on site inspections and environmental monitoring, document review, natural resources management, community outreach, STEM education and more. Below, find more details on our specific partnerships.
Acoma and Laguna Pueblos
The Acoma and Laguna Pueblos are southeast of LM’s Bluewater, New Mexico, Disposal Site in Cibola County, near the town of Grants.
Uranium-ore processing at the site in the 1950s through 1970s produced radioactive tailings. Water in the tailings slurry seeped into the underlying alluvial and bedrock aquifers, contaminating the groundwater. Site reclamation began in 1991, and by 1995, all mill tailings, contaminated soils, demolished mill structures, and contaminated vicinity property materials were encapsulated in on-site disposal areas.
Groundwater monitoring by LM demonstrates that contaminated groundwater has migrated off the Bluewater site, and that this migration occurred during the past milling activities. Evaluation of groundwater data for the site and downgradient of the site indicates that no drinking water supply wells have contaminant concentrations above drinking water standards, and that the site-derived contamination does not pose a current or future risk for community water systems in the Grants-Bluewater valley. LM continues to evaluate off-site contamination to ensure safety of human health and the environment.
LM collaborates with both Pueblos, and tribal representatives of both have toured the site for an overview of the disposal cell, site hydrogeology, and groundwater contamination concerns.
In August 2021, LM leadership and technical staff met with Acoma Pueblo leadership to discuss the Bluewater site, the Defense-Related Uranium Mines program, and the Homestake mill site, which is scheduled to transfer to LM in 2037.
In September 2021, LM Defense-Related Uranium Mines (DRUM) program staff met with Laguna technical staff and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 6, staff to discuss the six abandoned uranium mines on the Laguna Pueblo. Three of 6 sites are being addressed by EPA under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act. DRUM will inventory the remaining 3 mines.
LM oversees two sites in Alaska, one on Amchitka Island at the western end of the Aleutian chain, the other at Chariot in northwest Alaska. The office collaborates closely with Alaska Natives to provide long-term stewardship of both sites.
Currently uninhabited, Amchitka Island is an ancestral home of the Aleuts, whose nearest community today lies about 170 miles to the east on Adak Island. The Aleuts occupied Amchitka intermittently beginning about 4,000 years ago through the late 1700s. At the beginning of World War II, Amchitka contained only an abandoned Russian fishing village.
From 1965 to 1971, the U.S. government conducted three underground nuclear tests on Amchitka. In 2001, DOE was assigned responsibility for properties related to these tests, referred to collectively as the Amchitka, Alaska, Site. The site is outside the island’s designated wilderness area and is not near potential Alaskan Native tribal claims.
In cooperation with the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association (APIA), LM performs terrestrial sampling on the island and marine sampling in the ocean waters surrounding Amchitka and Adak islands. The office has worked closely with APIA since the late 1990s on data analysis, document reviews, and initiatives for communicating with the local community.
The most recent sampling events, performed in 2011 and 2016, assessed the safety of subsistence- and commercial-catch seafood. Taking into account a range of Aleut diets, analysis of the 2011 samples showed that concentrations of contaminants are within the Environmental Protection Agency’s acceptable risk range. The 2016 samples are currently in the analysis stage LM will continue its sampling and environmental monitoring of the Amchitka region, with the next event planned for 2021.
In addition, LM participates annually in a focus session at the Alaska Forum on the Environment to discuss long-term surveillance and monitoring activities at the Amchitka site. Other participants include the APIA, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and University of Alaska Fairbanks.
LM’s Chariot, Alaska, Site is located in the Ogoturuk Valley in the Cape Thompson region of northwest Alaska, bounded on the southwest by the Chukchi Sea. The closest populated areas are the Inupiaq villages of Point Hope, 32 miles northwest of the site, and Kivalina, 41 miles southeast.
In 1962, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a radioactive tracer experiment in test plots at the Chariot site. Soil contaminated with radioactive elements from an experimental nuclear detonation at the Nevada Test Site (now called the Nevada National Security Site) was brought to the Chariot site for use in the test plots.
In consultation with area residents and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, DOE decided in 1993 that removal of all remaining radiologically contaminated material at the site was the most effective means of assuring residents that the site presented no risk to human health or the environment. The State of Alaska issued a clean-closure status of the site following the 1993 remediation, and clean-closure with institutional controls following a 2014 cleanup of diesel-contaminated soils from former boreholes at the site.
LM collaborates with tribal leaders for long-term management of the Chariot site. In 2017, the office met with tribal leaders in Point Hope to provide an update on the site and discuss measures for long-term protection.
LM’s Gasbuggy site, located in Carson National Forest in northwestern New Mexico, borders the Jicarilla Apache Reservation.
Project Gasbuggy was part of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Plowshare Program, which sought to find peaceful uses for nuclear power. In 1967, AEC detonated a nuclear device at 4,227 feet below the ground surface to fracture the rock and increase natural gas flow. Most of the radionuclides from that detonation were contained in the solidified molten rock in the cavity and no radiation was released at the surface. AEC decommissioned and demobilized the site in 1978, and the structures and equipment used for the test were decontaminated and removed. Cleanup was complete by 2004. Today, the U.S. Forest Service has returned the land to its pre-Gasbuggy uses of recreation and livestock grazing.
The EPA began monitoring groundwater and surface water annually at Gasbuggy beginning in 1972. The sampling locations—located in Carson National Forest, the Jicarilla Apache Reservation, and on private property—consisted of springs, ponds, surface water drainages, ranch wells, and livestock watering wells near the site. Since 2008, DOE has overseen this hydrologic monitoring. In 2009, annual monitoring was reduced to once every five years since no Gasbuggy-related contamination had been detected.
If new oil and gas wells are drilled near Gasbuggy, LM samples the gas to ensure no contaminants from the nuclear test are detected.
Navajo Nation and Hopi Tribe
LM provides long-term stewardship for four former mill sites on located on the Navajo Nation: Shiprock, New Mexico; Tuba City, Arizona; Mexican Hat, Utah, and Monument Valley, Arizona. The Tuba City site is also in the vicinity of Hopi tribal lands.
In 2007, Congress issued a directive for six federal agencies and various Navajo tribal agencies to create a Five-Year Plan to address uranium contamination within the Navajo Nation. The federal agencies involved in this effort are the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Regulatory Commission, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of the Interior. The tribal entities include the Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President, Navajo Abandoned Mine Lands/Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (AML/UMTRA) Department, Navajo Nation Department of Health, Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, and Navajo Nation Department of Justice. As part of the collaboration, the U.S. Department of Energy works closely with the Hopi tribe as well.
The Navajo Nation Community Outreach Network Office in Window Rock, Arizona, is tasked with coordinating and supporting the multi-agency effort through community outreach, joint agency and tribal planning, and information sharing. In 2014, the Five-Year Plan was updated to build on the work completed in the first five years and make adjustments based on information gained during this time. The 10-Year Plan was recently completed. It builds on the work of the two previous Five-Year Plans and identifies the next steps in addressing the human health and environmental risks associated with the legacy of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.
Through a cooperative agreement, LM coordinates closely with the Navajo Nation AML/UMTRA Department and Hopi Office of Mining and Mineral Resources to inform tribal government leadership and communities about LM activities and provide opportunities for ongoing, two-way communication regarding site inspections, document review, and community outreach initiatives. LM actively seeks, considers, and responds to the views of its tribal stakeholders, ensuring they have an opportunity to provide input in LM’s decision-making process.
As part of its outreach efforts, LM attends the Navajo Nation’s yearly tribal fairs and other community events to share information. LM also hosts public open houses and site tours to engage the community and strengthen tribal and federal partnerships for protecting human health and the environment.
LM is committed to supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education on tribal nations. STEM with LM brings to life the awe-inspiring and world-changing advancements and events of the nuclear age, subsequent cleanup, and ecological transformations of LM sites. Educational outreach events with local schools introduce students to topics such as radon, radiation, and the legacy of uranium mining and milling. STEM with LM scientists and engineers actively engage in supporting science education at the Navajo Nation’s Diné College through teaching, presenting seminars, and mentoring students in fieldwork activities. LM also participates in annual conferences of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals.
- Navajo Nation and Hopi Reservation Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act Sites Communications and Outreach Plan (July 2021)
- Working with the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe Fact Sheet
- Navajo Nation Community Outreach Network Office, Window Rock, Arizona
- Resource List 2020: Uranium and Radiation on the Navajo Nation
- Mexican Hat, Utah, Disposal Site
- Monument Valley, Arizona, Processing Site
- Shiprock, New Mexico, Disposal Site
- Tuba City, Arizona, Disposal Site
Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone Tribes
The Riverton, Wyoming, Processing Site is in Fremont County within the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation (Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone).
The site is the location of a former uranium- and vanadium-ore processing mill that operated from 1958 to 1963. These milling operations produced radioactive tailings, along with uranium, radium, and thorium contamination in soils and construction debris. DOE completed surface remediation of the Riverton site in 1989.
The past milling operations at the Riverton site resulted in surface and groundwater contamination. A perpetual deed restriction for the former mill site property restricts well drilling and land development. DOE funded an alternate drinking water supply system in 1998 to provide potable water to residents within a specified boundary around the site. Tribal ordinance places restrictions on well installation, prohibits surface impoundments, and authorizes access to inspect and sample new wells within this boundary.
In 2017, LM finalized a cooperative agreement with the Northern Arapaho Tribe to collaborate on an environmental monitoring program at the site and facilitate outreach to area residents and other stakeholders. LM and the tribe are also undertaking an assessment of the alternate drinking water supply system as well as an independent, comprehensive risk assessment.
In August 2021, LM leadership and technical staff met with Northern Arapaho leadership to discuss the Riverton site and the Defense-Related Uranium Mines program.
LM’s Sherwood site, located about 35 miles northwest of Spokane, Washington, lies within the Spokane Indian Reservation.
Milling operations began in 1978, when Western Nuclear used an acid-leach process to extract uranium from ore hauled from an open pit mine a half mile from the mill. The operations produced radioactive mill tailings. Along with contaminated mill site soils, buildings, and debris, these tailings were encapsulated in an engineered disposal cell constructed east of the former mill site.
Following completion and approval of the remediation by the Washington State Department of Health, the site was transferred to the Office of Legacy Management in 2001 for long-term surveillance and management.
LM conducts annual groundwater monitoring at the site and shares results with the Spokane Tribe. No contamination has been detected in groundwater downgradient of the disposal cell. Tribal representatives collaborate with LM on annual site inspections, noxious weed control, and management of forest resources.
Southern Ute Indian Tribe
On October 6, 2021, LM Director Carmelo Melendez and technical staff met virtually with the Southern Ute Tribal Chairman Melvin J. Baker and technical staff. The meeting discussed the Durango, Colorado, Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act sites; the Defense-Related Uranium Mines program’s campaign on tribal lands; and how the Tribe would like to engage going forward. At the request of the Tribe, LM will arrange a visit to the Durango site and provide STEM outreach.
Ute Mountain Ute Tribe
In August 2020, LM’s Defense-Related Uranium Mines (DRUM) program received a request from the Ute Mountain Ute tribe for information on mines in the Cottonwood Wash area, near Blanding, UT. The tribe used the information to help prepare a proposal along with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to assess potential mining related influences in the watershed onto tribal trust lands.
In July 2021, DRUM assisted the Ute Mountain Ute tribe to assess the Cottonwood Wash watershed in Utah. This project is being funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s water program under the WINN Act. Funding allocated to this project will include resources for mine restoration work in addition to this assessment. The primary purpose of the study is to identify priority sites for restoration. The mine-specific reports provided by the DRUM program were instrumental in assisting the partner agency in this endeavor.
National Working Groups
We also work closely with the State and Tribal Government Working Group (STGWG), part of the National Conference of State Legislatures. Made up of states and Native American tribes, STGWG engages directly with DOE on issues related to the cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex. STGWG representatives provide recommendations to ensure that operation and cleanup activities are in compliance with all federal and state laws and regulations and tribal rights, including those retained by treaty, conferred by statute, and protected by the federal trust responsibility. STGWG'S Closure for the Seventh Generation, 2017 Edition report provides updated information on long-term stewardship activities across DOE sites.
- Closure for the Seventh Generation Report, a Report from the Stewardship Committee of the State and Tribal Government Working Group