Originally published Monday, September 17, 2018 at 05:56a.m.

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection agency has awarded $429,000 to Diné College on the Navajo Nation to study potential impacts of abandoned uranium mines on livestock in the Cove area of northeastern Arizona.

The college will work with Northern Arizona University and University of New Mexico on the study and risk assessment. The studies will help in the development of future cleanup plans.

Students and professors from the schools will assist EPA scientists with sampling for heavy metals and radionuclides in livestock, including cattle, horses and sheep.

Since 2016, EPA has awarded Diné College $809,481 for various studies related to radiological risk and ecological health, including a 2017 assessment of regional watersheds.

“Our continued partnership with Diné College helps train future engineers and scientists as they investigate the legacy of uranium mining and help us evaluate the ecological health in the Cove area,” said Mike Stoker, regional administrator for the EPA.

Funding comes from a settlement between the federal government and Tronox Anadarko Corp., successors to Kerr-McGee Corp. The company agreed to pay $1 billion to clean up 50 abandoned uranium mines where radioactive waste remains from former mining operations. About half of these mines are in the Cove area.

During the Cold War, 30 million tons of uranium ore were mined on or around the Navajo Nation, leaving more than 500 abandoned mines. Since 2008, EPA has awarded over $11 million in grants to the Navajo Nation to address uranium contamination and conducted preliminary investigations at all the mines.

More than 50 contaminated sites have been remediated, and safe drinking water has been provided to more than 3,800 families.

“This culturally sensitive study will provide an informed risk analysis that can serve as a model in radiological risk and ecological health in areas impacted by uranium mining,” said Perry Charley, director and senior scientist at the college’s Environmental Outreach and Research Institute.

Information provided by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency