Stimulus funds speed cleanup of mill tailings

The cleanup of the 16-million-ton Moab, Utah, mill tailings pile is a quarter complete.

The U.S. Department of Energy on June 3 marked the relocation of 4 million tons of Cold War-era tailings from the pile on the north side of the Colorado River near Moab.

The $1 billion project has moved at higher-than-anticipated speed because money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act allowed for the delivery of 10 weekly trainloads of tailings instead of the four that originally were planned, U.S. Department of Energy Project Director Don Metzler said.

“To be a quarter of the way done in about two years was unthinkable when we first started shipping in April 2009,” Metzler said.

Tailings are being hauled about 30 miles north from Moab to Crescent Junction by rail.

The stimulus infusion of $108 million is going to run out by early this summer, meaning it will revert to the schedule of one delivery per day for four days a week.

The cleanup process has a 2028 deadline for completion. With funding at the levels provided by the stimulus, cleanup could have been complete by 2019, but it now is estimated to be complete by 2025.


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