EPA SBA Abandoned Uranium Mine Technical Services and Cleanup Industry Day

By Adrian Dotson

EPA SBA Abandoned Uranium Mine Technical Services and Cleanup Industry Day

In April 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced they would be spending $1 billion to clean up abandon uranium mines on the Navajo Nation. The funds were secured in a bankruptcy-related settlement, the largest for environmental settlement. Energy mining companies Anadarko and Kerr McGee are required to pay a total of $5.15 billion resolve allegations of evading liability for environmental contaminations.

On September 16 and 17, EPA and the Small Business Administration (SBA) hosted Abandoned Uranium Mine Technical Services and Cleanup Industry Day, in Albuquerque, NM and Window Rock, AZ. SBA has worked with EPA on executing these events in an effort to engage Native American businesses and other local small businesses on the massive cleanup efforts associated with the settlement.

The event turned out to be an information session where detailed background information was presented and questions were answered. EPA officials started the morning session with information about Kerr McGee, the oil, gas, and uranium energy-exploration company, started in 1929. From 1940 – 1980, Kerr McGee conducted uranium mining operations on the Navajo Nation and left behind abandoned mines, mine structures, and contaminated waste material.

The EPA has identified 49 mines and mine exploration sites that they will focus on. Left over funds will then be used to identify and cleanup other uranium mining sites. There are over 500 mine claims with 1270 features such as waste piles and vent shafts of various size and ore production. The EPA claims this will be a giant project with a timeline that stretches many years. They are still in the beginning stages of the cleanup planning.

The scale of these cleanup projects will create opportunities for all types of technical and cleanup industries. SBA representatives explained how a business can become a vendor to the EPA and get various types of certifications for gaining preference, such as Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and Section 8(a) status. SBA also went down the list or resources for small businesses such as procurement technical assistance and mentorship programs.

SBA assembled a panel of large business representatives who often acquire large federal contracts. These large businesses are often prime contractor companies who require subcontracting to smaller businesses who specialize in specific areas. SBA stressed the importance of networking and hoped that the event that day would foster new relationships and encouraged small businesses to approach both prime-contractors and sub-contractors when seeking new projects.

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