The US EPA estimates there are approximately 15,000 defense-related abandoned uranium mines located in 14 states with an estimated 75% on federal and tribal land. Of those locations, over 500 abandoned mines and 1100 features are in the Four-Corners region. Uranium mill tailings, often referred to as legacy waste, comprise the largest volume of any category of radioactive waste in the Nation. Within the Department of Energy- Legacy Management significant investment is being made to understand the latest science and technology to improve the long-term management strategies for uranium mill tailings sites; however, what often gets left at the hindsight is how land disturbance as a result of extraction has unjustly positioned Indigenous People to respond to the unique challenges this presents in their communities. The research presented in this talk will 1) briefly discuss the historical implications of nuclear defense industries on Indigenous People, 2) the science and engineering behind the evolution of disposal cover designs for sites managed by the Department of Energy, and 3) how community-driven research is being used to address environmental and human exposure concerns in a community located within a region of where extensive uranium mining and milling took place.
Dr. Carrie Nuva Joseph (Hopi) is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Center for Indigenous Environmental Health Research at the University of Arizona (UA). She received her Ph.D. from UA’s Department of Soil, Water, and Environmental Science. She specializes in the chemical and biogeophysical relationships between natural and engineered landscapes impacted by hazardous waste and human disturbance. Her interdisciplinary efforts also include research on climate change impacts, human exposures to anthropogenic contaminants, hydrology, and water resource management in Indigenous communities. Using a holistic lens, Dr. Joseph’s work informs decision-making in science and policy, to advance social equity and data sovereignty efforts in marginalized populations. Dr. Joseph is a recipient of numerous honors and award including her previous department’s 2019 Outstanding Dissertation Award and the National Congress of American Indian’s 40 under 40 in Indian Country. Carrie is a citizen of the Hopi Nation, where she was born and raised. She is of the Coyote clan and child of the Snow clan from the Village of Moencopi.