The Environmental Protection Agency says they’ll be inspecting properties on Acoma Pueblo in western New Mexico for radioactive materials. The assessment is one of numerous being conducted in the southwest, and in Indian Country.
Since 2009, the EPA says they’ve been doing structural assessments of properties near former uranium mills and mines, including the Navajo Nation, Laguna Pueblo and now Acoma Pueblo.
In the case of Acoma, many tribal members worked in uranium mines near the Pueblo, and the EPA says they’re concerned that those miners may have brought radioactive materials home from work.
The EPA’s John Rinehart says companies may have failed to alert workers to health hazards associated with unused ore, and that those materials often wound up in homes or even as decoration.
“From what we understand is that, early on, it was waste material,” says Rinehart. “A lot of times when you want to make a repair at home, you just grab whatever material’s available, and they may not have let them know that this could have been a problem to bring and incorporate into their homes.”
Rinehart says the EPA will only be screening homes and properties for uranium ore, and will not be involved in any sort of health evaluations.