Water accumulates at uranium mine near Grand Canyon

Kaibab National Forest consists of 1.2 million acres that borders both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon.

By Ken Lund - Flickr: S.R. 67 Between Jacob Lake and Grand Canyon National Park, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14616417

Kaibab National Forest consists of 1.2 million acres that borders both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon.

PHOENIX (AP) – Water has accumulated at a uranium mine near the Grand Canyon, sparking concerns about water contamination.

A wet winter and increased groundwater flow have raised water levels at the Canyon uranium mine, which is located in Kaibab National Forest near the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park, the Arizona Republic reported. Kaibab spokeswoman Jacqueline Banks said the Forest Service has been actively monitoring the situation.

State regulators say they have not found any violations at the mine site.

The mine’s operators say water levels have begun to drop. The levels were so high at one point in March that the operator had to spray water into the air to enhance evaporation and increase the amount of water it was hauling to a mill in Utah.

Samples taken at the mine’s holding pond recently tested at 130 parts of dissolved uranium per billion. The Environmental Protection Agency considers anything above 30 parts per billion to be unsafe to drink.

A group of conservationists reported visiting the mines in March and seeing mist from high-powered pumps blowing onto national forest lands. Members of the Sierra Club said they saw mist blowing away from the mine on March 12.

“They were just blowing water into the air,” said Roger Clark of the Grand Canyon Trust, who visited the site about a week ago.

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality requires mines to control storm runoff and keep contaminated water in evaporation ponds. An inspector visited the site on March 20 and said the mist wasn’t drifting outside the mine’s property line.

Some conservationists say the agency doesn’t do enough. They point to a growing body of research indicating that wells, seeps and springs near the Grand Canyon may be connected.

Spokesman Curtis Moore of Energy Fuels Resources Inc., the mine operator, said in an email that the groundwater flows have slowed and evaporation pond levels have dropped.