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Anaconda, New Mexico: Small Town Destroyed by Uranium and the EPA

Activist and granddaughter of immigrants currently living in Colorado Springs.

Clothesline poles occasionally dot the landscape, one of a very few indications that this was once a town.

Clothesline poles occasionally dot the landscape, one of a very few indications that this was once a town.

A Forgotten Town

Our adventure began the night before, in a torrential downpour.

The sun was setting fast, and we couldn't see much of the road anyway; between the deluge from above and the rogue side waves caused by passing trucks, we were piloting submarines, not cars. We had to get off the road soon. My friend told me there was nothing left in Anaconda, so we would have to spend the night somewhere else anyway.

Our brains addled from too much driving, Laura and I reluctantly decided to stay in the least seedy hotel in Grants, NM, which is about 10 miles south of the former mining town of Anaconda.

There isn't really much at all in Grants. Our hotel was along the main drag, and was one of just a couple options; there were, after all, two of us, our six kids, and a dog. The door to our room barely closed; even though it technically locked, the knob teetered, unscrewed and unattached, inside the hole in the door. But our other option was sleeping in our cars.

A group of down and out but friendly folks sat on plastic chairs outside of the room next to ours, talking and laughing with big toothless grins. They were smoking what smelled like weed and drinking whiskey out of plastic cups. I guess our room wasn't so bad, but you could tell from the 70s paintings and the floor to ceiling Mamie Eisenhower pink porcelain in the bathroom that most tourists had avoided this hotel for decades.

The beds allowed us a good night's sleep and in the morning, we headed to Anaconda. I tentatively led the way in my SUV; Laura followed in her little green Honda.

We drove north on the interstate; there has never been an exit for Anaconda, so we exited at a big truck stop a few miles north of Grants, then drove up the frontage road for a few miles. Laura is remembering those long lost years, so takes the lead; good thing, because there are no road signs pointing the way to Anaconda. She remembers having to go under the railroad tracks, so we head in that direction. When we arrived at the bridge, we couldn't go any farther; the rain had formed a lake under the tracks. Laura said she thought we could walk the rest of the way, so we parked in the shadow of the bridge and headed out on foot.

It was a nice day, not too hot. Clouds ambled along the sky, contemplating whether they wanted to rain again. We skirted the lake under the bridge and headed up a small hill towards what used to be Anaconda.

The road was paved but obviously didn't see much traffic. At first, the landscape on either side of us looked like normal, empty meadow.

I looked around at the sagebrush, thinking we might be in the wrong place. "Where is it?"

Laura gestured to the area north of the road. "All this was a town," she said, continuing to walk.

Former town of Anaconda, NM

Former town of Anaconda, NM

History of Anaconda's Uranium Mine

The Anaconda Gold and Silver Mining Company was started in 1880 by a group of California investors in Butte, Montana. In 1882, the mine hit a rich vein of copper; by 1895, they had changed the name to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. They soon branched out into other metals, changing their name to Anaconda Company in 1955 to reflect the diversity of their products.

The Jackpile-Paguate Mine, located about 10 miles north of Grants, NM, opened in 1953. It went on to become the world's largest open-pit uranium mine until its closure in 1982.

From the Harvard Crimson, May 2, 1979:

"Anaconda made the first discovery of uranium in the U.S. at Laguna Pueblo, N.M., in 1951. Within 20 years, Anaconda's mine [had] become the largest uranium strip mine in the world, over five miles long and without any prospect for restoring the land to its original condition."

By the mid-1970s—in just 20 short years—Anaconda's mining operations in the area had greatly contaminated the soil and water of mostly tribal land. The Natives were fed up:

"This conference follows a law suit filed in December 1978 by 92 Navajos and one Acoma Indian in an effort to halt uranium production indefinitely. These two groups represent contingents of growing Indian resistance to government and corporate exploitation of Indian land, resources and people ... Environmental impact statements are required by the National Environmental Policy Act for all federal actions which significantly affect the environment. The plaintiffs contend that since 1970, many of these actions have been approved without the EIS's. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) has approved 303 Indian uranium leases, and the U.S. Geological Service okayed nine mining and reclamation plans. Both of these agencies fall under the Department of the Interior." 1

The Anaconda Company didn't protect its employees from the pollution, either. Did I mention that Laura's family lived in a house built with radioactive materials from the mine?

Logo of the Anaconda Copper Company.

Logo of the Anaconda Copper Company.

You Don't Realize You've Gone Too Far

As Laura and I walked along the road, there were increasing signs of a lost civilization; clothesline poles here, a twisted electric meter there, the occasional cement slab dotting what seemed like an empty field. Still, no cars passed us on the road. We cautiously walked down into the ditch and closer to the remnants of what had been a quaint town. Laura told us about riding her bike and walking to school. About normal times in a town that didn't exist anymore.

She pointed to where the post office, school and swimming pool used to be. The swimming pool that must have practically glowed from radioactivity. She said it was a good time in her life, but above all else, it was very normal.

As we walked further, the kids couldn't contain their boredom. The whining began, and the treasure hunting. Junk to collect. Bottles to break. Still, no cars and an eery silence surrounded us.

I suddenly panicked. "NO! Put it down! Don't touch anything!" I knocked a bottle out of my son's hand, suddenly remembering: You can't see it, smell it, or taste it, but it's everywhere. Radioactivity. Poison.

I took some more pictures, and Laura and I agreed we should head back to the car. There is that saying that you can't ever go home, but for those kids who grew up in Anaconda, it is an absolute truth. It made me sad for her, that there was nothing left.

No trips down memory lane, because if you linger, the lane will kill you.

Cement slab: One of the few indications that there was ever a town here.

Cement slab: One of the few indications that there was ever a town here.

The Worst Nuclear Disaster in the US Happened Four Months After Three Mile Island

In the early morning of July 16, 1979, disaster struck in the Grants Mineral Belt.

It didn't happen at the Jackpile Mine near Anaconda, but about 40 miles NW at United Nuclear Corporation's Church Rock Uranium Mine. The tailings disposal pond breached its dam and "... [over] 1,000 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and 93 million gallons of acidic, radioactive tailings solution flowed into the Puerco River, and contaminants traveled 80 miles (130 km) downstream to Navajo County, Arizona and onto the Navajo Nation.

"... The accident is frequently described as having released more radioactivity than the Three Mile Island accident that occurred four months earlier and was the largest release of radioactive material in U.S. history. The spill contaminated groundwater and rendered the Puerco unusable by local residents. The governor of New Mexico refused the Navajo Nation's request that the site be declared a federal disaster area, limiting aid to affected residents." 2

This accident actually released three times the radioactive material as the Three Mile Island disaster.

Robinson Kelly, Church Rock Chapter Vice President, recounted his experience of that morning to The Navajo Times:

"... [that] morning, July 16, 1979, his uncle told him to keep the horses in the corral.

"Kelly went to the "Puerky" [Puerco River], which in modern times has been more of an arroyo than a river, rarely running with water. But that day, it was filled to overflowing with rushing water.

"He remembers looking at the sky and seeing no rain clouds. He also remembers the color of the water.

""It was yellowish," Kelly said. "I didn't know what was going on but it was an ugly feeling. I went to work and found out the dam broke."" 3

I asked Laura and her brother, Dan, if they remembered the day the dam broke. They were still living in Anaconda at the time of the accident.

Neither of them remembers hearing anything about it. Their family moved to Denver in 1982.

We figured there was probably a good reason to obey the sign.

We figured there was probably a good reason to obey the sign.

The Firsthand Experience

What was it like, growing up in Anaconda?

Laura: I was really pretty young. We moved [away from Anaconda] when I was 10.

I think I was four when we moved there. It seems to me I had just turned four, so normal? It was basically all I knew. That's normal to me. We lived there for seven years. I'm not entirely sure what dad did exactly.

There were old lava flows everywhere, and right behind our house. I remember playing in those all the time. It was a great place for a little girl to explore! I would ride my bike all over the little town ... if you could even call it a town! I loved riding my bike more than anything. That and playing in the lava flows. There was a name for them ... I think malpais is the right word. Anyway, those are my best memories. Climbing around the malpais and riding my bike all over the place. I loved elementary school there and all my friends. As a little kid, I thought it was great.

As an adult looking back, I realized it may not have been so much for my parents. I asked my mom how it was for her, and my biggest takeaway from those conversations with her was that there were so many good people. She said she made wonderful friends there, and loved the people.

While I thought my time there was great, I didn't miss it when we moved to Colorado. It wasn't really until you and I went back, and there was NOTHING there, that I felt a loss. My kids will never know the cool little community that I spent my childhood in.

Also, I do worry about health, now that I'm older. My sister has a serious autoimmune disease, my dad has had health issues ... I can't help but wonder if living there for seven years has negatively affected all of our health.

Dan: Also, Pete's glandular function has all but shut down.

Laura: Yep. I was just thinking of that too. Oh yeah, I had a benign lump removed from my breast my senior year of high school.

Were there any restrictions?

Like drinking water or not being able to grow anything?

Laura: Not that I recall. In fact, it seems we always had a little garden. Dan, you should answer more!

Dan: Last time I personally visited the Anaconda site might have been in 1995, when I drove up from TX to UT to scout out jobs in advance of moving up there. Even then the houses were already gone and it was kind of spooky, like a ghost town.

I still have dreams often where I'm back there. I think we lived there from 1974-1981. Those were some of my formative growing-up years.

At the time I hated living out in the sticks. I was an anxious, depressed kid. But I don't think that was because of Anaconda. Looking back, we had a pretty idyllic life there and I'm grateful for it.

SO...dad was a Sr. Mining Engineer. Basically, he would use a computer to analyze assay data and print out maps telling the miners where to dig next, how much uranium ore was in the ground, stuff like that. At least that was how I understood it.

Life there was pretty normal, I guess. There were lots of friends to play with. We played baseball and hide-and-seek and kick-the-can. We played in the hills and explored caves and built forts in the hill behind our house out of the malpais rock, which was everywhere. It was like natural building bricks for little kids.

One time dad brought home a rock containing actual uranium ore and one night I slept with it under my pillow, just to be funny, I guess. The next morning I woke up with a headache. No joke.

Laura: Ohhhhh my gosh!!! Funny/not funny!!

Dan: Maybe that caused my stroke decades later. Kidding!

Also, we rode our bikes everywhere and fished in the ponds which I guess were stocked with bluegill fish, I don't know. We caught them and threw them back in but never ate them.

There were three Quonset huts built which contained a swimming pool, a bowling alley, and a basketball court, which was also used for skating, and we had dances for the teens. We had outdoor basketball and tennis courts in the area near the Quonsets.

Laura went to a preschool which was held in a little classroom in the back of the basketball court Quonset.

Pete has a large aerial photograph of the whole area as it was back in the day. I should try and get a pic of it to send to you. You would no doubt find that interesting.

Laura: I loved my preschool!

Do either of you remember when the accident happened up the road?

When the dam burst? You were there until 1981 and the dam at the Church Rock holding pond broke in 1979. They say it's worse than the accident at Three Mile Island.

Laura: I don't remember that at all.

Dan: I don't remember either.

There hasn't been mail delivery in Anaconda for decades.

There hasn't been mail delivery in Anaconda for decades.

Natives Can't Forget the Problem That Will Never Go Away

As long as the uranium was still in the ground, it wasn't an issue. But the legacy of uranium mining in the Grants Mineral Belt is still an open wound for both the environment and the native tribes who live there.

The Navajo and Laguna tribes have done their part to mitigate the devastation wrought by uranium mining on their tribal lands; devastation, by the way, that was caused in just three short decades. The Navajo Nation bears the lion's share of the toxic waste from all sites. 4 Cancer is now an epidemic in the area; notably because these types of cancers were nearly unheard of among natives prior to the uranium mining.

Three sites in the Grants Mineral Belt are Superfund Cleanup Sites. It is unlikely that they will ever be returned to their pristine state of pre-uranium mining.

From the EPA site:

"[The] EPA is working with the Department of Justice to settle all claims (EPA "enforcement first" policy).

"In 1986, the Pueblo of Laguna, the Department of Interior, (DOI) Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Anaconda/ARCO entered into a reclamation agreement under a Record of Decision (ROD). It was agreed the reclamation work would be completed by the Laguna Pueblo. In June 1995, the Jackpile Reclamation Project was completed however, sampling and analysis of groundwater and surface water continued under the reclamation plan for about 10 years before all reclamation work ceased. Limited groundwater and surface water sampling and analysis continue through other environmental programs at the Laguna Pueblo.

"The Pueblo of Laguna asked EPA to consider the site for listing on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL). EPA has explored other cleanup options in lieu of listing with the Department of Interior. However, no other alternate mechanism to address releases have been identified. EPA proposed the site for listing on the NPL in March 2012. The Site was listed December 12, 2013." 5

Sounds like a whole lotta nothin' to me.

Update: I recently rewatched the movie Thunderheart. I saw it in theaters when it first came out, in 1992, and even though I was sympathetic to the plight of the American Indian, I didn't understand many of the references in the movie.

SPOILER: A central theme of the film is the destruction of the ecosystem of the reservation by uranium drilling. The US Government was in cahoots with mining companies to extract uranium, which irreversably polluted the land and sickened many citizens on the reservation.

Thunderheart is a work of fiction, but this is what happened in real life in 1979 at the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and Arizona. The issue was ignored then, it was ignored after Thunderheart, and it is ignored to this day.

I notice that Greta Thunberg didn't bring up the destruction of Navajo lands, or recognize any Navajo leaders who have tried to bring this issue to a wider audience.


1 Westigaard, Winona La Duke. "Uranium Mines on Native Land | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson." Uranium Mines on Native Land | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson. The Harvard Crimson, Inc., n.d. Web. 30 Apr. 2016. <http://www.thecrimson.com/article/1979/5/2/uranium-mines-on-native-land-pthe/>. Originally published in the Harvard Crimson on May 2, 1979.

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Rock_uranium_mill_spill

3 http://navajotimes.com/news/2009/0709/072309uranium.php

4 http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21959-toxic-legacy-uranium-mining-in-new-mexico

5 https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0607033

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2016 Carrie Peterson


Barry D Hause on June 29, 2020:

Interesting article. I lived in a trailer house at the caustic terminal outside Milan, NM for several years in the early 1970s. My stepfather worked there for Homestake unloading chemicals for the mine ore processing. As far as I know you can still still the old green water tower from I40. At that time it was only route 66. (likely the frontage road mentioned in the article. My grandfather worked for Anaconda and died of a heart attack on the job. My grandmother stayed in Grants, renting trailers to mine workers and later on my mother bought the old Mirabal house in San Rafael after she retired. I went to Blue Water elementary school for 1st and 2nd grade. I remember waiting for the bus near the tracks in full view of Mt. Taylor and the zunis.

Pamela (Chance) Goode on February 29, 2020:

I also lived in the Grants area. Lots of family members from there. I mostly remember living in Blue Water. There was a trailer park and we lived there along with, two of my aunts and uncles and several cousins. Our friends the Wise family lived there also. We walked to Blue Water school. My dad and most of the other men worked at anaconda. My dad drove one of the uranium hauling trucks. I remember the yellow stuff on his clothes. Mom threw them in the washihng machine with the rest of our clothes. Who knew?! As kids we ran around the neighbohood having fun time playing and getting into mischeif. Now, not much of my family is left. My parents and my little brother, Michael, lost their battles with cancer. I'm a cancer survivor myself. Wish we'd known then what we know now. I still enjoy going back to the Grants area, oh and by the way there are several nice hotels there. I wish more of my family was still around for the family reunions in Prewitt. And I wish the ice caves had been better taken care of, but I have some wonderful childhood memories.

Natalie (Garcia) Vaughn on May 14, 2019:

My dad worked at Anaconda until April1981. I remember going to school in Bluewater. The house we lived in was near the tennis courts. My sisters and i loved playing out in the backyard, going swimming, and blowing in the quansets. I don't remember a school. But i do remember my younger sister's going to a preschool. The elementary school was a 15 to 20 minute drive and the high school was further away.

I was very young but i remember my dad saying that the houses were built by workers early on. However, there were not many trees around but we dis have a couple of old trees in the yard of the house we're lived in. I'll have to ask him more about the houses when I talk to him next.

I remember going fishing at the pond and seeing the dead fish in the pond. My dad freaked out, told us not to touch anything and we went home.

I also remember my dad saying that they sold all of the houses to people all around the country. All that was left was the concrete slab.

I went back to show my husband where i lived and armed men told us to leave and that it wasn't safe. They eventually got rid of the concrete slabs also.

David on December 09, 2017:

Carrie Peterson are you also Brynn Thorssen?

David on December 08, 2017:

This is a very poor written article. Anaconda was 13 miles west of Grants off the old Route 66 highway. My family left Anaconda in May 1980, knowing the mill was going to be shut down in a year or so. My father was in upper management with the Alantic Richfield Company. The community itself housed management and administration for the company. As a teenager growing up, with had our own horses, motorcycles and cars to ride around in. There was so many places to explore like hiking up Mt. Taylor or going to Bluewater Lake. It was a clean community and didn't have a swimming pool that glowed from radioactive waste. I do remember however a blue glow miles north of the community towards the Pueblo of Latuna. The houses were never built from radioactive waste as others have stated. Little is known about this community and very few articles about it have been written. This author clearly didn't visit the site, it is private property and used other people's photos to deplict an image of the place.

Jody Nalty on November 07, 2017:

I worked at Anaconda from 1977 thru 1979 I was there when they added on to the mill My dad also worked there from 1970 until they closed heck it was not all that bad other then we did not know what Health issues it would cause everyone later on in Life due to the exposure to the Uranium I am having health issues with circulation that is possibly cause from it but my Doctors do not have enough information to prove it.

aolivia25 on June 05, 2017:

So there is definitely a Holiday Inn right up the road. Grants isn't luxurious by any means, but it isn't a cesspool this article painted out to be....

Robyn Pietsch on February 17, 2017:

I don't know who the hell you think you are or know about the Anaconda Mining Company but I surmise you are a wanna be writer that should know that facts are a crucial part of a historical article. I was born and raised in that area, and my father worked at Anaconda his whole life. I still have family there and Grants is not a ghost town as you have portrayed it. Granted it is not as it once was but it sure as hell isn't the town you have written about.

Orville Moore on February 11, 2017:

I read all the stories, and I'm glad so many had some good memories from what Anaconda provided the community, and surrounding towns.

Yes it was one of the first Uranium mill sites, as children the freedom we had, I only wish my children, and grandchildren could experience, with out the contamination. Like many in the area I followed in my families foot steps. I went to work at Anaconda, then it was sold to Atlantic Richfield. I worked my way up, and was a supervisor at 21, the youngest ever in the Atlantic Richfield Organization. Not bragging, cause looking back at it, what I knew, and found out as a supervisor became very scary. Like the day we evacuated the crusher, and ball mill to run a barrel of yellow cake that had been discovered in the old pilot plant. Extremely radioactive, it had crytilized. They were very scared of the material, we loaded it up and ran barrel and all through the ball mill, with no one present. Hopes were rerunning it would delute it enough to lower the radioactivity. They said it did. But still many people I knew were dying of cancers, leukemia, and other health problems. I hated it when a young man my age who worked for me, came down with cancer. He was one hell of an inspiration to me, and others, he worked through all his treatments never missing a day. Sick and throwing up, he showed up to work, so his family was taken care of. I remember the stories we were told to tell employees who asked if the uranium we were mining was dangerous. Pat answer was, you get more radiation from watching your color tv, or the gold ring on your finger, than working their. But in the late 70's all employees were required to wear radiation badges, then came the urine test for protein in it. If it was high you were over exposed, and sent to the bull gang until your numbers came down.

I was over exposed while working for Sohio L bar ranch mill. I was peeing greenish blue, my kidneys felt like. Someone kicked them in. I tried to file a accident report, but was refused the right to. So seeing my doctor, I think 90% of grants went to. Dr, Guttierrez, he told me I was over exposed and after x rays he said yes you have what we call strung lung, people who have been exposed to uranium for a long time develope this, it looks likes strings in your lungs on x rays.

And he told me I would probably with in time be one sterile. Well at 24 I was, but I had two male children by then, thank God they are normal and not radiation creeks I have seen.

When we closed the mill site, we were told they were going to tear down everything, even the homes, cause they did not want sued cause someone who bought the home, had a three legged child. Well when I returned to Grants I found out the did not tear the houses down they crated them up and sold them all over the state. Yes I was in shock to see the peace I grew up and had many memories from was gone, like it was ereased off the map. All except that monster pile of tailings they covered up, and planted grass on now is just a huge pile of radioactive material that the acid has leached through the top soil they covered it with, to make this pretty gray pile of poisoned land. I was gone fir 20 years, and when the Government finally admitted we were wronged they decided to give a piss ant payment to those who were terminal, or dead, as long as you died from the following list of diseases.

But were only going to pay miners during the era that NRC was controlling production, cause MSHA HAD TAKEN OVER SAFETY IN 1972. LIE, LIE, LIE. MSHA DID NOT GO INTO EFFECT UNTIL 1976, and actually did nothing in the field until 1978. MSHA did not protect employees from radiation, they were concerned more about production done safely. So as long as you were safe, they could over expose you, and no one knew any about it.

Yes the incident at three mile Island was the reason given for the Uranium industry collapse. And one thing most don't know, is radiation exposure can destroy your DNA, mutate it.

So do I support it coming back, hell no! Cause these people going to sell their souls for money, will have no recourse when their health goes to hell. Mining pays big money for one reason, they know they are going to destroy your health, it's just his long does it take. Some can work 30 years, others 10. But the big bucks are your sale of your health. The philosophy in mining is simple, were numbers, fill a bucket with water, put your hand in it, pull it out, as long as the joke remains in the water where your hand was, that's how long it takes to replace you! Or missed.

So even though I have found memories of the Uranium era in Grants area. I would give every penny I made in mining to have my family members, and my friend alive today.

I talked to the politicians, they don't give a damn about anyone who lived in this area, and worked or exposed to it. When they want to make the whole state in the downwinders, that should wake you up. The fact the Government allowed all mining companies to hide, destroy all documentation and not have to release the information to lawyers, and courts, cause the companies were covered under the grandfather clause with the government, cause the produced the Uranium for the government they were protected under National Sevurity, but we who lived in it, around it, worked in and around all the processes, get screwed. So if you worked prior to 1972 you qualify for RECA, after that tough shit! Everyone with in a 20 mile radius of the mines, the mills should receive compensation, sick or not. They flat lied to us all.

Is their one person out there who believes their parents sacrificed their health, their families health and future for the all mighty dollar? No they were intentionally kept misinformed, cause had they knew the health risks, they would never have indangered their families. Why did our Government intentionally contaminate areas of our country to monitor the beauty effects of radiation. You want zone scarry reading? Look up human radiation experiments ,gov

Hitler was not that bad of a guy when you compare.

I'm sorry for all your loses, I'm sorry for your pain, I'm sorry I did not know then, what I know now, cause I would gave done all I could to get people to see the dangers of it. God help us all, if they go back to mining it and building reactors again. The Japan damaged reactor will exspode if they have another earth quake, and the fuel rods still there touch each other. Get ready for one hell of a tidle wave West coast. And radiation clouds.

I'm sorry cause I did not see through the lies we were told to repeat. One more thing, coal miners that truck that cones into town for us old uranium miners, is the same truck that visits the coal mines in Wyoming and around the country, why? Cause anything. Created out of decay is radioactive. Most realities check homes for radon, cause legally they can't sell your home with a high level of radon,, cause it causes cancer. Radon attaches itself to dust, and breathed into the lungs where it sits until your body passes it. That's what our miners were subjected to every day they worked in the mines. Transport workers, drillers, houses around mille's and mines. That's why RECA WAS EXSPANDED. BUT NOT TO INCLUDE THOSE WHO WORKED IN IT AFTER 1972. Cause the government claims they were not responsible for our health, after MSHA TOOK OVER FROM THE NRC.

Josie on February 10, 2017:

I was born in Grants, Raised in Bluewater Village. My father worked at Anaconda. Many of my family members still live in Bluewater village where the Store and post office were. Indigenous people have been affected as have the others living in and around the area. But All the citizens arent dying of cancer. Not only is Grants a predominately Hispanic community but the Uranium was also discovered by a Hispanic man. So it sounds strange for Ron Romero to play the race card. Also a flooded underpass is not a lake, and although it sounds nice to say you skirted it... you would most likely wade though it. Being as they typically have cement walls straight up on both sides to support the track or road above , leaving a small narrow path for a vehicle to pass through. Tell the facts, and maybe find sources more reliable than persons who have so little childhood memories that are not consistent with the facts. You know, like the people who lived there before during and after Anaconda. Fancy words mean nothing when the story is fabricated from unreliable memories and exaggerations.

Ryan on February 09, 2017:

I grew up near Anaconda. Anaconda did not have its own elementary school. Everyone went to Bluewater Elementary, which was nearby - I should know - our bus picked up a lot of students from Anaconda. When the mines closed, the houses that were out there were either sold or demolished - I don't remember which. It may no longer exist, but it wasn't irradiated. My grandparents lived off Highway 66 near Anaconda for over sixty years and they lived till their 80s and 90s. This sounds just like "fake news."

Carrie Peterson (author) from Colorado Springs, CO on February 09, 2017:

Mary, it wasn't Laura or Dan that told me houses were built from radioactive materials from the mine, that was information I found elsewhere. Laura *was in preschool at the time. There were no signs stating it was private property when we were there, also nothing that blocked off the road. The road dips down under the railroad bridge, it was so flooded we couldn't drive through it. We either had to "skirt the lake" or walk up the hill and over the railroad tracks.

Why on earth are you so hostile, Mary?

Russ: By then, the industry knew that it was dangerous. They knew the consequences. But like the oil companies now, they didn't want to lose their profits. Unfortunately, the Navajos are still dealing with the after effects ... you all got to move away and move on with your lives.

Donald Roxberry Jr. on February 08, 2017:

I remember the speed limit signs under the tracks said 14MPH, my Dad worked as a electrican from 1977 to March 1982 , My senior year at Grants High, He later developed Lung cancer and died from it in 2001. Sooo many people got sick from working there, i remember Dad being put out of work for two weeks because of radiation exposure, he wore a monitor that clipped on his belt. I know he was out of work and i was helping him work on the family car when we heard on the radio that Elvis died (aug. 1977??) I played on the bowling team at Anaconda, we lived at a trailer court just west of Milan(Golden Acres) My wife and i went back for my 30th class reunion, and went out by the old mill site, nothing there. Dad and a good friend were pulled out of a roller drum that crushed yellowcake, i cant remember his coworkers name but he died that day from over exposure.

Mary on February 08, 2017:

This article is so totally wrong! Evidently, these people, Laura and Dan, never existed. There is no way you could ever live in Anaconda and have so few facts be correct. No housing was ever built from radioactive mine materials. Malpais is not a natural building block. The kids would have had to walk for over 2 hours one way to get to school because the closest one was in Bluewater unless you were in preschool. Anaconda never had a post office or store of any kind. The directions to get to Anaconda in the article are so far off I think they must have been in another county. There's quite a bit in Grants and it is nowhere near what is described in the article. You don't "skirt the lake" under the bridge. Its only wide enough for two cars to go through and each side is a wall. If its flooded, the whole thing is flooded. And of course there were no cars passing by. IT'S PRIVATE PROPERTY and is posted as such. And its also a long walk from the bridge to the so-called "town", especially if you go along the road. Facts in articles need to be checked before they are printed.

Carrie Peterson (author) from Colorado Springs, CO on February 08, 2017:

Thank you all for sharing your experiences!

Bill Pendergraft on February 08, 2017:

We lived in Grant's from 1968-1980. My father managed the phone company, so he ventured everywhere in a 70 mile radius. He had a key to the Anaconda pool, so we went all of the time. Friends and I hiked, explored and camped all over the mountains, foothills and lava beds surrounding Grants and other area communities. My dad died from complications of leukemia and I've survived two battles with cancer (including stage 4b lymphoma). We are the only ones in our entire extended family to ever have cancer. My parents divorced in 1975 and my mother and sister moved away. I can't help but think that their departure saved them from cancer. I will say that I was blissfully unaware of any risk and I had an awesome childhood.

Ron Romero on February 08, 2017:

I grew up in Anaconda for 18 years. 100 Homes for employees at the Mill. Rent was $ 40.00 a month. The first hospital in Grants was there. A lot of friends from Bluewater Village were born there. Everything was free. Swimming Pool, Bowling Alley, Basketball Court, Baseball Diamond, Fishing Ponds, Corrals for livestock, Golf Course, Community Garden. No Police. It was like a Gated Community way back then. I remember we were the first Mexican American family to be allowed to move out there. My mother was White. Almost all dirt roads so kids would get cars early age and drive. Very sheltered growing up but what a Blessing.

Russ on February 07, 2017:

I lived across the Interstate from Anaconda in Bluewater between 1960 and 1974. My father worked in a milling operation a few miles from Anaconda. All the elementary-aged students from Anaconda attended Bluewater elementary school, where I attended 1st through 8th grade. None of my childhood friends, at least none that I'm aware of, who grew up in the immediate area have suffered from radiation-related maladies. However, many of the men and women who worked in the mines and milling operations have died due to exposure to radioactive material. My father, who is 83, suffers from a lung disease related to exposure to yellowcake, the raw material from which weapons grade and energy grade nuclear material is produced. The uranium industry was forced by the EPA to set up a fund that would cover medical expenses of those affected by their work in the industry. My father has benefited greatly from that arrangement. I would caution the reader to refrain from judging history. We can't change it. What we can do is learn from it.

Bob Frayser on February 07, 2017:

We lived in Grats during two booms and busts. First in the late 50's early 60's and again in the late 70's early 80's. The fun times of my life were spent in Grants during Jr. High and High School. The article while focusing on Anaconda is reminiscent of my memory in Grants. I have watched my father's health show the signs of the life and disease as a result of Uranium. I have spent 35 years in a life of mining myself albeit silver gold and copper. All residents of Grants, Milan, and Anaconda will forever pay the price. From my friends fathers that were slabbed to those that are suffering a slow resultant death from related diseases. I once loved Grants but now know it is forever changed and the root of much pain for many. I don't play the "victim" card, but in this case it is obvious that life shows the detrimental effects of a life lived in Grants.

Beverly Tafoya formerly (MURRIETTA) on February 07, 2017:

I lived at Anaconda from 1970 to 1984. I also taught the preschool in the qounset. It was a community not a town. My children attended Bluewater Elemtary. Lots of fun activities all the time. We weren't aware of what we were being exposed to. Sad there is nothing left.

Cynthia Rowley on February 07, 2017:

My father and uncle and grandfather also worked there. The break I do not remember either. I was 9 around the time this is said to happened . And my brother worked out in the Shiprock area. And Yes I knew many of the people that lived out there in Anaconda also.

AUDIE THOMPSON on February 07, 2017:

When I was about 10 yrs old me and my brother lovell would go out to anaconda and spend the day with his friend Terry and his brother.Played basketball in the quansetts that was described here.Seens like a long time ago now.I am turning 65 this year.

Teri on February 07, 2017:

I lived in Anaconda 18 years. It definately wasnt a town but more if a community . No store no post office. The mill. Houses. Swimming pool, bowling alley nd a large gym. Closest elementary school was Bluewater elementary. If anyone walked to school they walked awhile

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