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Matheson Tailings Cleanup Deadline Included in Defense Bill

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Matheson Tailings Cleanup Deadline Included in Defense Bill

Congressman Jim Matheson's deadline for cleanup by the Department of Energy (DOE) of the 16 million tons of radioactive waste near the Colorado River is included in a defense bill scheduled to pass this week. The '08 Defense Authorization bill (HR 1585) is the final version worked out between the House and the Senate.

Matheson's language says the remediation at the Moab site shall be completed "not later than October 1, 2019". Matheson pushed for the action after hearing from Energy Secretary Bodman that DOE's timetable was to take more than 20 years.

"Delays and foot-dragging have been the response from DOE to this cleanup effort for far too long," said Matheson. "Now that a contractor has been selected, and there's a firm deadline, I expect results, not excuses."

In a letter to the House Armed Services Committee requesting inclusion of the deadline language, Matheson noted "numerous studies have been conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Research Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Utah and independent scientists who have all pointed to the dangers of leaving the tailings pile on the banks of the Colorado River."

Matheson said the tailings are already leaching chemicals into the water supply for 25 million downstream users in Utah, Arizona, Nevada and California. Recently, DOE announced its interim remedial action at the tailings site had captured more than 100 million gallons of contaminated groundwater, including 449,250 pounds of ammonia and 1,900 pounds of uranium.

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