Monday, August 3, 2020


Moab, UT

79.6 F

    UMTRA head addresses dust, ammonia issues at Moab site

    Featured Stories

    Survey: Local parents want daily in-person teaching

    “I really don’t think that 40% of all people are not going to send their kid to school.”

    Tales of Trails: Savor spectacular views from thrilling Shafer Trail

    In the 1890s, Moab pioneer brothers Frank M. And John S. Shafer developed the route from what had been a Native American pathway connecting what is now Canyonlands National Park to the river below.

    At 99, Moab man is knighted by France

    “The French people will never forget his courage and devotion to the great cause of freedom,”

    Leaving Guatemala, Part 4: ‘A year in the land of eternal spring’

    Though I planned to return someday, whether as a Peace Corps volunteer or not, this experience proved that even the best-laid plans go awry.

    Leaving Guatemala, Part 3: Sudden departure came with painful goodbyes

    Men donned wooden masks and numerous layers of sweatshirts and ponchos then proceeded to hit each other with whips as they danced around the town square.
    Doug McMurdo
    Doug McMurdo
    Editor Doug McMurdo reports on news out of the Moab City Center, tourism, courts, change of government and more.
    Russell McCallister, the federal cleanup director at the Moab UMTRA site, discusses health and safety issues with the Grand County Council on Tuesday. Photo by Doug McMurdo

    By Doug McMurdo

    The Times-Independent

    A video purportedly showing potentially radioactive dust blowing from the Moab UMTRA site north of the city prompted a visit from Russell McCallister when the Grand County Council met Tuesday.

    McCallister, the federal cleanup director for the Moab UMTRA — Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action — assured the council workers at the site strive to abate dust, primarily through spraying water on the roads and property where uranium tailings, a legacy of Moab’s former mining economy, are being hauled from the Colorado River site to Crescent Junction for permanent disposal.

    “My mission is to do everything I can to suppress dust,” said McCallister.

    He noted there were various sources for dust, including Grand County roads and areas on the site that are not contaminated. “We spray water as much as we can,” he said, adding there is a 15 mph maximum speed allowed on site.

    He said workers have applied a coating of nonradioactive material on roads and when the wind reaches a certain speed or certain levels of dust are in the air, they make sure they don’t exceed acceptable levels.

    He noted high winds might curtail activity and that the prevailing wind at the site flows to the northwest away from Moab.

    Workers hold meetings at 3 p.m. to plan the next day’s activity and the forecast is always a part of that conversation, said McCallister. There is a network of air monitoring stations that produce significant data. “I want to get it as low as I possibly can,” he said.

    Resident Mike Adkison during the Citizens to be Heard portion of the meeting urged the county council to ask the Department of Energy to improve the manner in which it samples the air at the site, saying the current system is cumulative and not done in “real time.”

    Another concern is the presence of ammonia, another legacy of mining.

    “Ammonia and uranium are the two things to worry about,” said McCallister. Ammonia was used during the mining phase to neutralize the acid in uranium.

    He said elevated levels of ammonia were detected in August. They reached the chronic level, but not acute. The difference he said in response to a question from Chair Mary McGann is that acute exposure results in immediate harm to humans or fish and chronic exposure would cause harm over a period of time.

    The channel was diluted and fresh water was diverted.

    Odd odors are another issue. McCallister said a worker operating a bulldozer uncovered material with an odor about 18 months ago. The worker had a headache and the source of the smell has not been determined. The likely suspect, he said, was some type of industrial solvent.

    “There’s a lot of stuff buried there we don’t necessarily know about,” said McCallister. “Once we get rid of the pile our problems go away.”

    “This is why it is so important to get the pile moved away from Moab as soon and as efficiently as possible,” said McGann.

    Share this!

    - Advertisement -

    Latest News

    Domestic travel not replacing global visits

    The overall figures for 2020, not just the month of June, are more striking.

    The Market on Center

    A new type of farmers market is happening in Moab this summer, and it began on July 23. Dubbed “The Market on Center,” it includes vendors selling food and produce, artisan creations and other items.

    Al fresco: COVID-19 pushes city to permit outdoor dining

    Distancing guidelines would have to be followed and businesses would have to apply for a license.

    Abandoned mine reclamation project could begin this fall

    The closure methods include masonry walls, steel grates, rebar barricade and earthen backfill.

    Gas prices ‘stuck in neutral’

    The national average price of gasoline decreased 2.5 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $2.17 per gallon Monday.