UMTRA workers, contractors celebrate safety milestones
by Rudy Herndon
Staff Writer
Apr 03, 2014 | 1137 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Crews load uranium mill tailings into sealed hauling trucks at the Moab UMTRA work site north of Moab. Courtesy photo
Crews load uranium mill tailings into sealed hauling trucks at the Moab UMTRA work site north of Moab. Courtesy photo
slideshow
Almost five years have gone by since Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project crews began to ship ton after ton of old mining waste away from the Colorado River.

The work is now more than 41 percent completed, yet even though the job involves a variety of daily challenges, employees at the site have now logged more than 2 million work hours without a single lost-time accident, officials said.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last month that site employees have worked for more than four years without an incident.

“The number 1,584 may not mean much to most people, but for [Moab UMTRA workers], it represents the number of days without a work-related, lost-time injury or illness,” the DOE said in a March 12 statement.

Apart from that safety record, technical assistance contractor S&K Aerospace LLC has never had a lost-time incident since the DOE awarded its original project contract in June 2007.

To recognize both milestones, S&K and lead remedial action contractor Portage, Inc., recently hosted a celebration of the milestone.

According to the DOE, site employees received American National Standards Institute-approved orange t-shirts to wear as the weather warms up. Banners that celebrated the team’s safety record also went up at prominent locations around the site.

According to Grand County UMTRA Liaison Lee Shenton, the last accident at the site occurred in October 2009, when an employee broke a leg while he was lining containers. The incident led to a change in procedures, he said.

Shenton credits the UMTRA team’s performance in changing the public’s perceptions about the project, as well.

At the start of cleanup work, Shenton said he heard from numerous people who came forward to voice their concerns. But over the years, the number of visits from concerned citizens has dropped “way off,” he said March 18.

The pile of mining waste at the old Atlas Mill site is also getting smaller by the week.

The first shipment of tailings from the site to a long-term disposal cell near Crescent Junction began on April 20, 2009, and as of late February, crews had removed 6.5 million tons, or 41 percent of all tailings.

Crews have also extracted 205 million gallons of groundwater from the project area, and they’ve remediated 13 out of 15 properties in town that qualified for cleanup work, Shenton said.

In 2013, crews moved about 670,000 tons, and they’re aiming for a target of 900,000 tons during the current federal fiscal year, according to Shenton. They also hope to begin removing mill debris some time this year, Shenton said.

From now through late September, they’ll be able to continue their work without any fears of interruptions. The project budget for the current federal fiscal year totals $38 million, so there won’t be any further shutdowns in the coming months, Shenton said.

Copyright 2013 The Times-Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

report abuse...

Express yourself:

We're glad to give readers a forum to express their points of view on issues important to this community. That forum is the “Letters to the Editor.” Letters to the editor may be submitted directly to The Times-Independent through this link and will be published in the print edition of the newspaper. All letters must be the original work of the letter writer – form letters will not be accepted. All letters must include the actual first and last name of the letter writer, the writer’s address, city and state and telephone number. Anonymous letters will not be accepted.

Letters may not exceed 400 words in length, must be regarding issues of general interest to the community, and may not include personal attacks, offensive language, ethnic or racial slurs, or attacks on personal or religious beliefs. Letters should focus on a single issue. Letters that proselytize or focus on theological debates will not be published. During political campaigns, The Times-Independent will not publish letters supporting or opposing any local candidate. Thank you letters are generally not accepted for publication unless the letter has a public purpose. Thank you letters dealing with private matters that compliment or complain about a business or individual will not be published. Nor will letters listing the names of individuals and/or businesses that supported a cause or event. Thank you letters about good Samaritan acts will be considered at the discretion of the newspaper.