October 25, 2022
Ute Mountain Ute tribal members and community members join the spiritual walk against White Mesa Uranium Mill. (Photo by Tim Peterson/Grand Canyon Trust)

Ute Mountain Ute peace walk brings awareness to uranium mill's operations and health impacts

By Clark Adomaitis

The Ute Mountain Ute tribe in White Mesa, Utah, led a rally and spiritual walk this past Saturday to protest a radioactive waste dump and other activities at a nearby uranium mill.

More than 100 activists marched with the Ute Mountain Ute tribe for the 4th annual peace walk in protest of the White Mesa Mill - Energy Fuels Inc – the only conventional uranium mill in the United States.

Radioactive caution sign
White Mesa Mill - Energy Fuels Inc. fence with a radioactive material caution sign. (Photo by Clark Adomaitis)

Thelma Whiskers, who lives at White Mesa, blames the mill for problems with her tap water.

Whiskers: So, we have to have our water on for about 15 minutes until the smell goes away, but we're still using it to wash our dishes, to take shower and to do our laundry (speaking in Native language) until the smell goes away (speaking in Native language…)

The EPA has criticized the mill for violating the Clean Air Act and found that two ponds for disposing radioactive waste were improperly covered.

Radioactive caution sign
EcoFight aerial flyover White Mesa Mill - Energy Fuels Inc.(Photo by Tim Peterson/Grand Canyon Trust)

Protesters cite concerns about exposed toxic waste, old radioactive cells, and groundwater runoff. And Scott Clow, Environmental Programs Director for the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, is concerned that radioactive waste stored at the site is held improperly, and could leak into the surrounding environment.

Clow: The materials that are disposed of in the impoundments at the mill are going to be there forever, they will never be moved. It is not anticipated that they will every be moved. It’s just more and more going in the ground over time.
Radioactive caution sign
EcoFight flyover White Mesa Mill march - (Photo by EcoFight )

This demonstration continues the decades-long fight by tribal members to push for the mill to be permanently closed. Energy Fuels, the company that operates the mill, has agreed to do an interview later this week.

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