House subcommittee furthers cleanup of radioactive waste near Colorado River in Utah

Moving a 10.5-million-ton mountain of radioactive waste away from the Colorado River at Moab, Utah, came a step closer to reality as a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives recommended $2 million toward the project in the upcoming fiscal year.

LOS ANGELES, June 21, 2001 — Moving a 10.5-million-ton mountain of radioactive waste away from the Colorado River at Moab, Utah, came a step closer to reality as a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives recommended $2 million toward the project in the upcoming fiscal year.

The scrap heap left by a bankrupt uranium mill is leaking an estimated 28,000 gallons of radioactive waste per day into the nearby Colorado River, and endangering the future safety of a major source of drinking water for most of urban Southern California's 17 million residents.

At the request of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development of the House Appropriations Committee has recommended $2 million toward the Moab cleanup in its request for fiscal year 2002 funds.

The Appropriations Committee is expected to discuss the request Monday, June 25, and the bill is expected to go to the full House shortly thereafter. If supported by the Senate and signed by the president, the bill will provide funds in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 for the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with moving the 10-story-high mountain of uranium ore scrap.

Recently, $1.95 million was included in the supplemental appropriations bill currently under consideration by Congress. That money would fund a study of Moab remediation options during the federal government's current fiscal year.

"It is essential that immediate action be taken to curtail this potential environmental threat to the Colorado River," Roybal-Allard said. "The river is a priceless resource for people in my Congressional district and across Southern California.

"I'm pleased that I was able to work with my colleagues of the Appropriations Committee to secure funding for this project," she said, "and to help ensure the safety of our region's drinking water."

Phillip J. Pace, chairman of the board of Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the agency that provides approximately 60 percent of the region's drinking water, said, "Metropolitan Water District has been pressing for this cleanup for years, and we're delighted with Congresswoman Roybal-Allard's support and success. We are greatly appreciative of her efforts."

The mountain of industrial waste sits as close as 600 feet to the Colorado River, and rain seeping through the pile leaches out radioactive poisons including arsenic, lead and ammonia. While the dump is hundreds of miles upstream of the Lake Havasu intake point for Southern California's Colorado River Aqueduct, and no discernible trend in radioactivity has been determined there, Metropolitan has long been concerned with the future safety of the river.

In addition to Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, Representatives Bob Filner (D-San Diego), Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk), George Miller (D-Vallejo) and Chris Cannon (R-Utah) are among the elected officials who have joined Metropolitan in pressing for a cleanup of the Moab site.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The District imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other water-management programs.

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