Imagine an elementary school that’s only a couple of hundred meters away from a pit emitting radiation that’s four times as high as in long-term evacuation zones outside of Fukushima. Now imagine that in South Dakota.
That disturbing image is the reality for students in South Dakota, who go to school near an open pit Uranium mine. As Eleanor Goldfield revealed in a recent episode of Act Out! that same story is playing out across the United States, and even more frequently near Native American lands.
Since the 1950s, waste from active and inactive uranium mines has seeped into the Navajo Nation’s water supplies, which has led to increased rates of cancer, genetic defects, Navajo neurohepatopathy, and increases in mortality.
The material that fed the Cold War by making atomic bombs possible is also found in low concentrations of ore, making its runoff a toxic sludge containing other harmful elements, like arsenic and lead.
It’s not just uranium mining that’s made the Navajo Nation’s water so dangerous, though. Dirty coal-fired power plants have also been major polluters of both water and air throughout the 27,000 square miles that the Navajo Nation occupies in the Southwest.
And as Eleanor points out, it’s not just Native Americans — anyone who lives near a fossil fuel plant that’s near a uranium mine is vulnerable to the dust the plants inevitably pump out. That makes it a crisis for all of us.
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