Welcome to the website of the
Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance.
The Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance is a group of citizens from neighboring communities near
Grants and north of Milan, New Mexico, whose underground water resources have been contaminated
by uranium mining and milling activities that began in the 1950s. As a result, our rural way of life has
been decimated and we have organized to fight against Homestake/Barrick Gold and the other rich
and powerful mining companies that polluted our community and left with their profits, but without
provisions for cleaning up the massive underground water contamination that was the legacy of their
uranium mining activities, particularly in the Ambrosia Lake area, and also at the Anaconda/Atlantic
Richfield Company mill site only a few miles away.
For over 25 years, and in spite of designation as a Superfund site, our community has battled with
Homestake/Barrick Gold, the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED), the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC), and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to try to restore
our underground aquifers. Only lately has the NMED, under Governor Richardson’s leadership, begun
to take our concerns seriously. Senator Jeff Bingaman’s office has also come to our aid recently and
we look forward to more help from the Senator in the future.
Living next to Homestake/Barrick Gold’s uranium mill tailings Superfund site has taken a toll on our community.
In years past, we watched windblown tailings scatter across our horizon. Today we watch as mist from the
company’s evaporation ponds drifts out into the surrounding communities, and we often suffer from the stench
of the evaporation ponds. We do not know how our physical health has been impacted, but the strain from lost
water resources, lost property values, damaged homes, and the constant battle with corporate giants and
regulators has taken a toll on our mental health.
In short, we are a small organization of working class citizens fighting for environmental justice against the
Goliaths of the uranium industry and often against the very U.S. government regulators who should have
protected our health and environment in the first place.
in the Santa Fe New Mexican. Feb. 8, 2011
Cleanup held hostage
As president of the Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance
and as a person affected by the legacy of contamination left from past uranium
mining, I would urge New Mexicans to look carefully at Rep. Patricia Lundstrom's
HB 111. As a community that has fought for a cleanup for more than 30 years, we
equate the current version of this bill to blackmail.
As it now stands, the bill proposes that communities affected by uranium
contamination should be forced — or should force others — to expose
themselves to the risks of new uranium mining in order to fund a cleanup. The
Multicultural Alliance for a Safe Environment is offering amendments to this
bill BVDA finds helpful. If Rep. Lundstrom really wants uranium cleanup, she
must uncouple it from new uranium mining.
articles from the Gallup Independent
appeal HRI case to Supreme Court. By
Kathy Helms, Sept. 16, 2010. Click
Homestake didn't cause neighbors' disease.
Kathy Helms, Sept. 15, 2010. Click
says company clears 'Indian Country' challenge.
Kathy Helms, Sept. 18, 2010. Click
benefits for Navajo uranium mill cleanup workers. By
Kathy Helms, Sept. 21, 2010. Click
reaches settlement on Quivira, Tuba City Dump cleanup. By
Kathy Helms, Sept. 14, 2010. Click
addresses Navajo uranium issues. By
Kathy Helms, Sept. 12, 2010. Click
begins drilling for uranium at Ambrosia Lake. By
Kathy Helms, Sept. 14, 2010. Click
Nearby residents oppose permit
HOMESTAKE STILL SEEKING RENEWAL
By Donald Jaramillo
Beacon publisher/managing editor
Published Tuesday, January 19, 2010 10:15 AM MST
GRANTS - A public hearing
was held last week on Jan. 12 and 13 in regard to Homestake Mining Company's
discharge permit with modification at the Cibola County Complex. The hearing
started on Tuesday morning and went through 8:30 p.m. the first day. On
Wednesday, officials started at 8 a.m. and the hearing ended at approximately
The permit's site is just
north of the Village of Milan on Highway 605 toward San Mateo. The Homestake
reclamation project is a Superfund Site.
According to Homestake Project Manager Al Cox, he has been
waiting for re-approval of the existing permit for several years and is now
requesting a third pond, EP3, to speed up the process of reclamation. If
approved by the New Mexico Environmental Department, EP3 would be constructed
on HMC property on Sections 22 and 23, approximately 1,800 feet north of
County Road 63. A 50-foot wide access corridor will be constructed to access
the proposed pond and to locate piping and associated infrastructure to the
Cox said that the pond can be constructed in 90 to 120 days and would cost
approximately $2.5 million.
“We've lost time [without the third pond],” said George
Hoffman, a hydrologist witness for HMC. “We've been unable to maximize the
process being used for cleanup.”
The hearing, hosted by the Environmental Department,
included detailed discussion from expert witnesses and attorneys from HMC and
the Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance. A hearing officer lead the meetings
as the opposing organization, the BVDA, argued the success and questioned the
process being used by HMC. BVDA is a grassroots community-based organization
based in Milan and lead by Art Gebeau. BVDA is opposing the permit, in
collaboration with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center and the Southwest
Research Information Center. The three organzations are requesting NMED to
disapprove the water permit until a report on the effectiveness of HMC
reclamation plan is released next month by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
According to BVDA, residents in the area have already lost well-use access and
are suffering from radon exposure coming from the tailings pile at four times
greater than safe background levels.
“Since you started this in 1972,” Gebeau confronted
Hoffman while he was on the stand. “the goal was so that the contaminated
water would not spread and some odd 30 years later many people around there
are told not to drink the water, why? Why is it that the contamination has
Hoffman went on arguing that HMC is using the best process the company he
represents knows of.
State Senator David Ulibarri and Representative Eliseo Alcon went on record on
Tuesday evening in support of the HMC being renewed with modification.
Alcon said, “If this third pond will help Homestake clean
its site up more quickly, then, obviously, it is in Homestake's best interest
to construct it . . . and sooner rather than later.”
Ulibarri told the hearing officer that he and
Representative Patricia Lundstrom had officially questioned as to why the HMC
permit had not been renewed and why it was taking so long. “My
interpretation of this letter is that the delay on NMED's part was due to the
question of whether the evaporation ponds were causing radon exposure,”
Ulibarri said. “NMED stated in their letter to me and Representative
Lundstrom that they have now made a determination that the ponds are not
causing radon exposure. Now it is time to move forward . . . the initial
request for this pond was made more than three years ago.”
Secretary Ron Curry of NMED will make a final determination
approving, conditionally approving or disapproving the renewal and
modification water permit.
“Fundamentally, our principal concern is the restoration
of our groundwater,” Gebeau said at the meeting. Gebeau concluded his
statement by offering recommendations to HMC, one being that they move the
cleanup site. “If the federal government can move tailings piles located in
or near communities and rivers in Durango, Grand Junction, Gunnison and Rifle,
Colo., and Moab, Utah, it can do so here in Milan.”
The HMC cleanup site involves a 25-million ton uranium
To comment or for more information on the hearing or water permit, you can
reach NMED at 1-505-827-2002 or 1-505-827-2919.
the Cibola County Beacon
Letter to the Editor of the
Cibola County Beacon - response to article:
Dear Mr. Jaramillo,
Your article on Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance's participation in the
recent hearing on Homestake Mining Company's state discharge permit contained
two fundamental errors that we request your correct immediately ("Nearby
Residents Oppose Permit", January 19, 2010).
First, neither BVDA nor its law firm (the New Mexico Environmental Law Center)
and technical assistance organization (Southwest Research and Information
Center) "opposed" the permit. We urged the Hearing Officer to
defer making a decision to modify and renew the permit until the results of an
independent assessment of the effectiveness of Homestake's groundwater
remediation system is completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and reviewed
by all parties. USACE is expected to issue a draft report of its findings
on February 12. No BVDA member said, orally or in writing, that our group
is opposing the permit.
Second, BVDA's expert witness was Mr. Paul Robinson, research director at SRIC
in Albuquerque, not his colleague Chris Shuey, as indicated in the photo
caption. Mr. Robinson did not testify in opposition to the permit, nor did
he state in his pre-filed written testimony that he was opposing the permit.
In fact, Mr. Robinson made several recommendations intended to improve
waste management at the site and to help Homestake make progress toward cleaning
up groundwater by 2017. His position was also clearly stated in his
written testimony: "The overall goal of these recommendations is to substantially
improve the processes and facilities permitted under Discharge Permit 725 by
providing for the closure and removal of the existing waste management units
located in the San Mateo Creek floodplain and consolidation of all waste storage
and disposal functions in a state-of-the-art facility that is located outside of
BVDA urged deferring a decision on renewal of DP-725 because we are convinced
that Homestake will not meet its self-imposed 2017 deadline using its current
strategy of flushing the large tailings pile with clean water, and that the
USACE evaluation will address that very concern. BVDA members have heard
Homestake's repeated promises to clean up pollution groundwater since the
mid-1970s. Since the past and current systems have failed each 10-year
period since then, BVDA felt that the New Mexico Environment Department should
have waited to receive and review the USACE report before holding a hearing on a
permit that may have to be substantially changed.
Finally, BVDA notes that neither Senator Ulibarri nor Representative Alcon
listened to any of the technical testimony at the two-day hearing, or stayed
around on Tuesday evening to listen to BVDA members' statements about the
hardships they have endured from 40 years of polluted groundwater, diminished
property values, and ill health. Their willingness to ignore our
community's concerns has become a pattern of behavior that belies their
positions as representatives of all of the people of their districts.
Bluewater Valley Downstream Alliance
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