Durango: Smelter Mountain disposal site monitoring well data shows a spike in uranium

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From The Durango Telegraph (Tracy Chamberlin):

Readings from one of the wells at the uranium mill tailings disposal site have almost doubled in the past year, according to a report from the Department of Energy, and agency officials don’t know why. “It is high, and we don’t have a good explanation for it at the moment,” said David Shafer, an Environmental Team Leader with the DOE’s Office of Legacy Management, in Grand Junction.

The last time levels jumped up in 2009, the sight was redeveloped. Subsequently, uranium concentrations dropped. But the numbers began rising again and recently peaked at the highest concentration to date.

The DOE monitors the groundwater at the disposal site in order to detect any possible leaks from the containment cell and is required to publish an annual report on its maintenance, repair and testing results. In the 2011 Site Inspection and Monitoring Report, uranium levels in a monitoring well located near the northeast corner of the cell were far above standards and have been on the rise for the past year. Levels hovered below the site-specific standard of 0.077 milligrams per liter for most of 2010, but shot past that minimum mark in 2011. They recently hit an all-time high of 0.14 milligrams per liter. Shafer said the most recent reading, taken in the beginning of February, showed the levels back down to the 2009 highs of 0.12 milligrams per liter, but still well above the site standard and the EPA standard, which is 0.004.

More nuclear coverage here and here.

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