Lakota Country Times: Uranium contaminates tribal water source

The Angostura Reservoir in South Dakota. Photo from South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks

Uranium Contamination: Angostura Reservoir
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE -- A study just released by two South Dakota School of Mines and Technology scientists and a scientist from California State University-Fresno has shown that uranium levels at Angostura Reservoir are elevated and caused by runoff from mining.

The study that looked at stream sediments along the Cheyenne River watershed and found that the human activity that contributed to the elevated uranium levels could be traced to abandoned uranium mines across the area and mill near Edgemont.

The water in the Cheyenne River helps to irrigate field and provide water for livestock across Lakota Country.

"This impacts people throughout western South Dakota,” said Gena Parkhurst, President of the Black Hills Chapter of Dakota Rural Action. “The Cheyenne River runs along or through two reservations and five counties. It impacts agriculture and tourism. We need to clean it up.”

The revelation of the toxicity in the reservoir adds to the evidence showing that human influence poses a threat to groundwater. National attention has been focused on the resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota where tribal-citizens and allies have been camped out for over a month. Previous attempts to have Ana domed mines cleaned across the Black Hills have fallen on deaf ears.

Dr. Lilias Jarding of Clean Water Alliance also calls for clean-up: “These radioactive mines have been sitting open for as much as 65 years,” Jarding said. “These test results make it clear there is a problem that threatens public health and demands immediate action. These old mines should be cleaned up before any new uranium mining is allowed in the area. We call on the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Reclamation to clean up these radioactive mines, starting today.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are 169 old uranium mines and prospects in the southern Black Hills, which was mined from 1951 to 1972. Only a handful of the old mines have been cleaned up.

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According to a releases a dam break in Edgemont that released 200 tons of radioactive uranium mill wastes into the Cheyenne River in 1962. According to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, some of these wastes reached Angostura Reservoir.

“With these new, verifiable tests, it is time the Environmental Protection Agency immediately reopens the application for a Superfund clean-up at the old mines in the Dewey-Burdock area” of Fall River and Custer Counties. The EPA looked into doing clean-up at the old uranium mines, but dropped the idea after being blocked from measuring the level of pollution on lands controlled by a uranium company in 2015.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at

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