Story by Laurel Morales
Fronteras Desk


The federal government has settled one of the largest environmental cleanup lawsuits in history, involving both Arizona uranium mining sites and chemical contamination in Lake Mead by Anadarko Petroleum and subsidiaries.

The settlement requires Anadarko and its subsidiaries to pay more than $5 billion to resolve fraudulent claims. A billion of that will go toward cleaning up about 50 abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. Another billion will help clean up chemical manufacturing contamination in Lake Mead.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Jared Blumenfeld said the energy company tried to evade responsibility and leave taxpayers with the cleanup bill.

"This is really about the polluter paying. If you cause a problem of that magnitude eventually it will catch up with you and your successor will have to pay for it," Blumenfeld said.

Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly said uranium mining has left a legacy of disease, death and hardship.

"I go meet with these people. You see it in their eyes they talk about it. It’s painful. It’s painful when you talk to these families and what they’re going through," he said.

Shelly said while this settlement will help a great deal, it will only clean up 10 percent of the mines that have been abandoned for more than three decades.