EPA UNWILLING OR UNABLE TO ACKNOWLEDGE RADON EMISSION CONCERNS AT WHITE MESA MILL
The Denver Region 8 Office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has delayed any real assessment of the radon emissions from the liquid effluents at the White Mesa Mill. The EPA'S July 27, 2015, letter responded to the June 10, 2015, Uranium Watch letter requesting enforcement action. Uranium Watch and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe believe that the EPA should be taking emergency actions to protect the health of the White Mesa community, in light of the high levels of radon emissions from the White Mesa Uranium Mill. Both Uranium Watch and the Ute Mt. Ute Tribe have brought the issue of the high levels of radon being emitted from radium-laden effluents at Cells 1, 3, 4A, and 4B (135 total acres) to the EPA.
The EPA does not require the measurement of radon from liquid effluents, based on their assumption that the emissions are “zero.” In 2011 the EPA developed a formula for determining the radon emissions from White Mesa liquid effluents based on local meteorological data and the radium content of the effluents. However, the EPA never used White Mesa liquid effluent data, which was readily available, to determine the radon emission.
Data from the White Mesa Mill 2014 Annual Tailings Wastewater Monitoring Report showed a dramatic increase in the radium content of the liquid effluents in Cells 1, 4A, and 4B in 2014. The high radium content means higher levels of radon emissions. Data for 2015 will not be available until December 2015, although the sampling event will occur in August 2015. The EPA states that they will continue to evaluate emission data from the Mill and information regarding the calculation of emissions from the liquid impoundments. The EPA has had over a year to evaluate this data. There is no indication that the EPA has requested new data on the radium content of the effluents, so that they can track the fluctuations in the radium content and radon emissions in a timely manner.
ENERGY FUELS REMOVES ROBERTS POND
AT WHITE MESA MILL
In 2014 Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. removed Roberts Pond, a small pond (about 10 acres) that had been used to store liquid processing wastes at the White Mesa Mill. The Pond liner was damaged by work done in 2012 when the Pond was drained the Pond and some of the accumulated sludge removed. Damage was repaired in 2012, but some went unobserved. In March 2014 Energy Fuels noticed additional damage. A remediation plan was approved by the Utah Division Waste Management and Radiation Control (DWMRC) (formerly Division of Radiation Control-DRC). Fluids, sludge, the liner, and contaminated soils have been removed and placed in another impoundment. There is now a 20-foot-deep hole that will be filled with clean soil. Tests were done to verify that the soils underneath the Pond met the cleanup standards.
The Pond was never approved by the EPA, as required by EPA regulation (40 CFR §§ 61.07-61.08). EPA approval, even an existing impoundment, was required for uranium mill impoundments holding tailings and processing effluents. The Mill owner never measured radon from sludge when there was no fluids in the Pond.
UW FILES NOTICE RE REINSTATEMENT
OF EPA STANDARD FOR NON-OPERATIONAL
MILL TAILINGS IMPOUNDMENTS -
40 CFR PART 61 SUBPART T
On July 10, 2015, Uranium Watch submitted a Notice and Request for Relief to the Utah Division Waste Management and Radiation Control (DWMRC) (formerly Division of Radiation Control-DRC) regarding Uranium Watch's intention to submit a petition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek reinstatement of 40 C.F.R. Part 61 Subpart T at the White Mesa Uranium Mill.
The basis for the Notice and Request to the DWMRC is the failure of the State to assure timely emplacement of a permanent barrier to limit the release of radon from the mill tailings in Cell 2 at the Mill. In 2014, the DRC issued an Order announcing that Cell 2 was no longer operating and was in "closure." However, an approved Reclamation Plan for Cell 2 has not been incorporated into the Mill's license and there are no approved reclamation milestones for the placement of the final radon barrier, the placement of an interim cover, or dewatering, as required by EPA and NRC regulation. An approved reclamation plan and reclamation milestones are required by EPA and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulations (which are incorporated into Utah regulation).
On July 15. 1994, the EPA rescinded Subpart T, National Emission Standards for Radon Emissions from Disposal of Uranium Mill Tailing, based on the assumption than an Agreement State, such as Utah, would assure timely placement of a final radon barrier by enforcing reclamation milestones established to carry out the final Reclamation Plan for a tailings impoundment. Utah has failed to meet those expectations.
The Subpart T Rescission was preceded by a 1991 Memorandum of Understanding between the EPA, NRC, and Affected Agreement States. Although Utah did not sign the MOU, because Utah was not yet an Agreement State for uranium mills, the expectation was that Agreement States would adhere to the provisions of the MOU, which the DWMRC has not done.
UTE MT. UTE TRIBE CONCERNED ABOUT PUBLIC HEALTH IMPACTS FROM WHITE MESA RADON EMISSIONS
The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe believes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should be taking emergency actions to protect the health of the White Mesa community, in light of the high levels of radon emissions from the White Mesa Uranium Mill. The Tribe continues to express concerns to the EPA regarding the radon emissions from the processing solution impoundments at the Mill. In the February 2015 Supplement to Calculation Brief, the Tribe provided new calculations of the radon emissions from the liquid impoundments. Data from the White Mesa Mill 2014 Annual Tailings Wastewater Monitoring Report shows a dramatic increase in the radium content of the liquid effluents in Cells 1, 4A, and 4B (135 acres). The high radium content means high levels of radon emissions. However, the EPA continues to maintain that the radon emissions from liquid effluents at the Mill are "zero," despite evidence to the contrary.
ENERGY FUELS RESOURCES SUBMITS 2014
CELL 3 RADON EMISSION REPORT
Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. has submitted the 2014 Annual Radon Flux Monitoring Report for Tailings Impoundment 3. The Report was submitted to demonstrate compliance with the National Emission Standard for Hazardous Air Pollutants for radon emissions from operating uranium mills (40 C.F.R. Part 61 Subpart W). The Report, based on 4 quarterly monitoring events, found that Cell 3 radon emissions were within the 20 pico Curie per square meter per second (20 pCi/m2-sec) standard. The monitoring and calculations assume that the radon emissions from the liquid cover on Cell 3 are zero. However, if Energy Fuels used the recent EPA formula for determining the radon emissions from liquid impoundments and water covers and Energy Fuels 2014 data on the radium content of Cell 3, the radon emissions from Cell 3 would exceed the standard.
ANFIELD RESOURCES AND URANIUM ONE
DELAY SHOOTARING CANYON MILL DEAL
Anfield Resources Inc. issued a news release announcing an agreement with Uranium One Inc. to extend the closing date for the acquisition of the Shootaring Canyon Mill and uranium mines and assets from Uranium One for up to an additional 90 days. The transaction was originally scheduled to close by March 31, 2015. The definitive agreements, as amended, now calls for the transaction to close by June 30, 2015.
Anfield announced that it is working with a surety bond provider to replace the long-term reclamation bond for the Shootaring Canyon Mill. The current estimated cost of decommissioning is $9,346,014.00. Anfield is working toward a collateral reduction of 25% of the total reclamation bond, with an annual premium of 3% of the bond value. As part of the reduction, within 24 months following closing Anfield would make an additional deposit to cover the remaining amount of the reclamation bonds. Anfield would also have to replace the bond for the Velvet Mine.
The Division of Radiation Control must approve any surety arrangement. The DRC has given its preliminary approval of the license transfer, but has yet to issue a public notice of opportunity for public comment and a hearing. Anfield must submit a license renewal application by October 31, 2015. The DRC granted an additional extension of the renewal application on October 17, 2014. With the delay in the completion of the acquisition of the Mill and the process to finally approve the license transfer, it is doubtful that Anfield would be able to submit the required license renewal application by the end of October.
USFS SENDS LA SAL MINES COMPLEX EA
DECISION BACK TO DRAWING BOARD
On March 20, 2015, US Forest Service (USFS) ruled favorably on Uranium Watch et al.'s Objection to the La Sal Mines Complex Plan of Operations Amendment, the project EA, and the USFS draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). In the 38-page decision, the Objection Reviewing Officer found that the FONSI was not supported by the EA and the project record. He instructed the Forest Supervisor to hold the issuance of the Decision Notice until all concerns and instructions in the decision have been addressed. At the end of this process, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will issue its final decision.
Many thanks to Roger Flynn and Jeff Parsons of the Western Mining Action
Project in Lyons, Colorado, who represented Uranium Watch, Grand Canyon Trust, Living Rivers, Information Network for Responsible Mining, and Center for
The La Sal Mines Complex consists of the Beaver Shaft (private land) and
Snowball, La Sal, and Pandora Mines and a Beaver Shaft waste rock pile on BLM land. Intake and radon exhaust vents, exploration drilling and access roads are on USFS land.
The Beaver Shaft and associated radon vents are close to an elementary school,
community center, store and Post Office in La Sal, on the south slope of the La
Sal Mountains. The mines went on standby at the end of 2012.
• USFS Decision Cover Letter
• USFS Decision
UTAH DEQ ELECTRONIC DOCUMENT SYSTEM
The Utah Department of Environmental Quality has established document
system to providing electronic document information. Limited Division of Radiation Control historical documents and more recent and current documents are available. Link to E-Z Search Documents.
UTAH LEGISLATURE MERGES
DIVISIONS OF RADIATION CONTROL
AND SOLID AND HAZARDOUS WASTE
The Utah Legislature approved Senate Bill 244, which merged the Divisions of Radiation Control and Solid and Hazardous Waste and established a new, combined Board. According to SB 244, a Board member must now be knowledgeable about solid and hazardous waste matters and radiation safety. The bill was pushed through the Legislature in a very short time, with little opportunity for public input. The current Radiation Control Board was not consulted. The Board asked that there be separate boards, but it was too late.
DATA SHOWS NEED TO CONTINUE RADON
MONITORING AT WHITE MESA URANIUM MILL
In July 2014, the Utah Division Radiation Control (DRC) ordered Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. to monitor the radon emissions from Cell 2 twice yearly and report them in the White Mesa Mill Semi-Annual Effluent Monitoring Report (SAER). The SAER for the Second Half of 2014 includes the results of Cell 2 radon monitoring.
Energy Fuels conducted 2 monitoring events, in July and September. The July test shows a flux of 20.4 pico Curies per square meter per second (20.4 pCi/m2-sec). This is above the 20 pCi/m2-sec limit the DRC established for Cell 2. The DRC determined that Cell 2 was in "closure," so no longer subject to the Environmental Protection Agency 20 pCi/m2-sec standard, so the DRC adopted that standard for Cell 2. In August Energy Fuels added additional materials on the interim cover to reduce the radon emissions, then retested in September. The September radon flux was below the emission limit. This shows that the DRC must require the continued monitoring of the Cell 2 radon emissions during closure.
The mill continues to emit high levels of radon from the radium-laden effluents in Cells 1, 3, 4A, and 4B. The average emissions from Cells 1, 4A, and 4B (~ 135 acres) for 2014 was 1,749 pCi/m2-sec, up from 156 pCi/m2-sec in 2013.
ANFIELD CONTINUES TO PURSUE PURCHASE OF
SHOOTARING MILL AND
MAKES FALSE CLAIMS TO INVESTORS
Anfield Resources Inc. continues to pursue the purchase of the Shootaring Canyon Uranium Mill near Ticaboo in Garfield County, north of the Colorado River at Lake Powell. The Mill is currently owned by Uranium One. The DRC has given its preliminary approval, but has yet to issue a public notice of opportunity for public comment and a hearing. Anfield must submit a license renewal application by October 15, 2015.
Anfield has been providing misleading information in its news releases and a corporate presentation. Anfield claims that they have an ore stockpile in Lisbon Valley at the historic Patti Ann Mine. According to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), there are no existing claims associated with the Patti Ann low-grade ore stockpile. The site is not on claims owned by Uranium One or other mining company.
Anfield plans to acquire the Velvet Mine and nearby unexploited Wood Mine in San Juan County as part of its purchase of the Shootaring Canyon Mill from Uranium One. The Velvet Mine, which supplied ore to the Atlas Minerals Uranium Mill in Moab, is only permitted for reclamation. However, Anfield claims (under the heading "Permits") that there is a Notice of Intent (NOI) to Commence Large Mining Operations Approved with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas & Mining (DOGM). Anfield claims a "Potential to recommence production within 12 months based on current permits in place." These statements are greatly misleading. The NOI is only associated with reclamation of the site, and it would take much longer than 12 months to permit and reopen the mine.
In order to reopen the long-closed Velvet Mine, Anfield would have to submit a new Plan of Operations/Notice of Intent to the BLM and DOGM. The BLM would have to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Environmental Assessment (EA). Based on the current time it has taken to complete EAs for uranium mine projects in San Juan County, that would take 3 years or longer. Air Quality and Water Quality permits would need to be updated. Anfield would need Utah Division of Air Quality approval to construct or reopen the mine ventilation system. Anyone who read the Velvet-Wood Technical Report, would see that Anfield is making false statements to potential investors.
In a recent news release, Anfield announced plans to evaluate the processing ore from their Velvet Mine and nearby Wood Mine assets using vat or heap leaching. Vat or heap leaching would require a uranium mill license and the permanent disposal of the spent ore for perpetual care and maintenance on site, at the White Mesa Mill, or the Shootaring Canyon Mill. The Velvet and Wood claims are on BLM land. Creating a new uranium ore processing site and tailings disposal site on BLM land would present many permitting and environmental challenges, which Anfield fails to mention.
DATA SHOWS DRAMATIC INCREASE LEVELS OF
RADON EMISSIONS AT WHITE MESA URANIUM MILL
The 2014 Annual Tailings Wastewater Monitoring Report shows a dramatic increase in the Cells 1, 4A, and 4B radium content. The data in the Report was based on August 2014 sampling events. As shown in the Table, based on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) formula for determining radon emissions from the White Mesa Mill liquid impoundments, the radon emissions from Cells 1, 4A, and 4B, have increased dramatically and average ~1,700 pico cures per square meter per second (pCi/m2-sec), when the standard for older tailings impoundments is 20 pCi/m2-sec. According to the Wastewater Monitoring Report:
> During June, July, and August operating period fresh water was not added to the Mill process. Re-circulated tailings liquids were used for process water. Re-circulated fluids were then returned to the tailings system or evaporation ponds.
> From August 2013 to August 2014, the Mill’s production was limited, resulting in less fresh water added to the Mill process and therefore to the cells. The decrease in the addition of fresh water resulted in concentration of existing fluids.
> Drought conditions resulted in less precipitation, therefore, less rainwater and storm water going into the cells. Drought also caused higher evaporation rates.
These conditions will continue, as Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc. has announced that they will put the Mill on standby in early 2015. Therefore, there will continue to be high levels of radon emissions from the solutions in these 4 impoundments. Yet, the EPA and Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ)have done nothing to address this situation. In fact, the EPA maintains that radon emissions from liquid impoundments are ZERO.
UW AND OTHERS OBJECT TO LA SAL MINES EA
On December 22, 2014, Uranium Watch, Living Rivers, Grand Canyon Trust, Center for Biological Diversity, and Information Network for Responsible Mining filed an Objection to the La Sal Mines Complex Plan of Operations Amendment Environmental Assessment and USFS Draft Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact. UW et al. are represented by the Western Mining Action Project, Lyons, Colorado.
• Public Notice
• Final La Sal Mines Complex EA
• La Sal Mines Complex Information
• La Sal Mines Complex EA
DATA SHOWS UNACCEPTABLY HIGH LEVELS OF
RADON EMISSIONS AT WHITE MESA URANIUM MILL
Recent data shows high levels of radon emissions from processing effluents and other ponded liquids at the White Mesa Mill. The fluids are held in lined impoundments or in ponds on top of solid tailings. The liquids come from the uranium ore processing, dewatering of Cell 2, pumping of contaminated groundwater, and surface runoff.
For years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) claimed that these radium-laden liquids did not have to be monitored because the radon emissions were “zero.” Now, putting together an EPA formula that determined that for every 1,000 pico Curies per liter (pCi/l) of radium in the effluents at White Mesa, there were
7 pico Curies per meter squared per second (7 pCi/m2-sec) of radon emissions. Recent Energy Fuels Resources Inc. data on the radium content of the liquids shows that the radon emissions are far greater than the 20 pCi/m2-sec emission standard for the dry tailings in the older (“existing”) impoundments. The emissions from liquid tailings range from 102 to 573 pCi/m2-sec, which is 5 to 28 times the radon emission standard for solid tailings.
• Risk Assessment Revision for 40 CFR Part 61 Subpart W – Radon Emissions from Operating Mill Tailings: Task 5 – Radon Emission from Evaporation Ponds; S. Cohen and Associates, November 9, 2010; Table 6, page 17.
• White Mesa Mill 2013 Annual Tailings Wastewater Monitoring Report; Groundwater Quality Discharge Permit, UGW370004, Energy Fuels Resources (USA) Inc., November 1, 2013
• Non Privileged Records (July-Sept 2014, Part 1), pages 405-416.
Non Privileged Records (July-Sept 2014, Part 2), pages 1-3 and 200-246.
URANIUM WATCH AND OTHERS SUBMIT
COMMENTS ON EPA RADON EMISSION RULEMAKING
At the end of October Uranium Watch (UW) et al. submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criticizing the EPA’s proposed regulations for the emission of radon from conventional uranium mills, in situ leach (ISL) uranium recovery operations, and heap-leach uranium recovery operations. The regulations are the National Emission Standards for Radon Emissions From Operating Mill Tailings, 40 C.F.R. Part 61 Subpart W. The current standards limits the radon emissions from the “existing” tailings impoundments at the White Mesa Mill near Blanding, Utah, to pCi/m2-sec. The mill owner, Energy Fuels Resources Inc. (Energy Fuels), must monitor the emissions and report to the Utah Division of Air Quality, which regulates radon emissions from uranium mines and mills in Utah, and the EPA. If the emissions exceed the standard, as they did for Cell 2 in 2012, Energy Fuels must take corrective actions. Energy Fuels placed additional fill on the Cell 2 interim cover and cleaned up windblown tailings to bring Cell 2 back into compliance. The proposed rule:
• Does not comply with the provisions of the Clean Air Act at Section 112(h).
• Eliminates any requirement to monitor and report radon emissions from the mill.
• Assures that no one knows how much radon is being emitted from the tailings.
• Ignores the high levels of radon emissions from over 155 acres of liquid effluents.
• Uranium Watch Subpart W Rulemaking Comments, October 29, 2014
• EPA Subpart W Review Webpage
• Other Subpart W Comments (Enter EPA–HQ– OAR–2008–0218)
UTAH APPROVES ANFIELD RESOURCES PURCHASE
OF SHOOTARING CANYON MILL
The Utah Division of Radiation Control (DRC) has authorized the Change of Control and Ownership from Uranium One Americas, Inc to Anfield Resources Holding Corp. When the purchase transaction is complete, Anfield must apply for a change of name of the licensee and provide the required reclamation bond. There will be an opportunity for public comment and a hearing on the change of ownership. The DRC has given Anfield until October 14, 2015, to submit the long-delayed license renewal application.
• DRC Shootaring Canyon Mill Webpage