Contaminated site near Lake Mead to get $1.1B for cleanup

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- Billions of dollars from an environmental contamination settlement now can be disbursed nationwide, including for cleanup of former uranium sites on the Navajo Nation and a chemical manufacturing site near Lake Mead.

The $5.15 billion settlement between the U.S. government and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. was reached last April. But a bankruptcy court had been awaiting appeals before declaring it final this week.

The settlement resolves a legal battle over Tronox Inc., a spinoff of Kerr-McGee Corp. Andarko acquired Tronox in 2006.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Navajo Nation will use more than $1 billion to clean up a uranium mill in Shiprock, New Mexico, and about 50 mine sites elsewhere on the reservation.

Another $1.1 billion will address a perchlorate groundwater plume that has contaminated Lake Mead in Nevada.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agengy, an estimated $1.1 billion will be paid to a trust responsible for cleaning up a former chemical manufacturing site near Henderson that led to perchlorate contamination in Lake Mead. The site is located within the Black Mountain Industrial complex near Henderson. Fifty to 100 pounds of perchlorate are still seeping into Lake Mead every day, and the funds will allow that state's Department of Environmental Protection to clean up the remaining underground sources of contamination.

The Henderson site is the largest perchlorate groundwater plume in the country. By way of the Las Vegas Wash, the plume has contaminated Lake Mead, which feeds into the Colorado River, a major source of drinking water in the Southwest. Perchlorate, a component in rocket fuel and fireworks, can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones, which are needed for prenatal and postnatal growth and development, as well as for normal metabolism and mental function in adults.

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