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The Church Rock Uranium Mill Spill and Other Corporate Cover-Ups

Activist and granddaughter of immigrants currently living in Colorado Springs.

No System but the Ecosystem - Sign at a #NoDAPL Protest In Colorado Springs

No System but the Ecosystem - Sign at a #NoDAPL Protest In Colorado Springs

The Environmental Impact of Corporate Greed

We demand that our government, which has been profoundly corrupted by corporate greed, stop exploiting the poor and our environment for profits. They seem to go hand in hand, don’t they? Poverty and epic destruction of our environment.

You probably noticed that the elites who own and operate the companies that harm the environment the most don’t live near the rivers they pollute. They don’t live near the soil they contaminate. But they are not alone in their villainy. The media is their co-conspirator.

Corporations buy favorable press to promote their agenda or better yet, they pay them to not report those stories at all. Many of you know that the worst nuclear disaster in United States’ history happened in 1979. The first thought that probably came to your mind was Three Mile Island. But I am talking about the spill that happened about four months after that disaster, at the Church Rock Uranium mine in New Mexico.

To me, the Church Rock Spill perfectly illustrates the complicity between media and corporations.

Uranium Legacy Remembrance and Action Day near the Church Rock Spill site.

Uranium Legacy Remembrance and Action Day near the Church Rock Spill site.

Radioactive Waste in the Puerco River

On July 16, 1979, the dam on the tailings pond broke. That break released radioactive waste into the Puerco River. When they finally got around to measuring it, radioactivity was 7,000 times the allowable level.

The river that was the farmers’ only source of water. And what community was most reliant on the Puerco River? The Navajo Nation.

Authorities warned residents of the spill on the radio. They posted signs that said not to take your livestock to the river. They announced on the radio that residents of the Puerco River Valley should not so much as touch the water.

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But they made those announcements in English, a language most Navajo residents of the Puerco River Valley were unable to speak or read. It took authorities several days to send Navajo-speaking people into those areas, several days to tell people that their very lives, and the lives of their cattle, sheep, horses, and other animals were at risk.

One gulp of the radioactive water, and they were condemned to death. But United Nuclear Corporation didn’t care about those animals. They cared about saving face and not getting caught.

And then, as if by magic, the story disappeared.

The United Nuclear Corporation Hid the Truth

But it wasn’t magic. It was money that made that story disappear into the shadows. Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know about the spill. My friend and her family lived about an hour south of the mine, at the time of the spill. They never heard anything about it.

Today, there is still “significant radiation” in the area. At the Church Rock tailings storage site, groundwater migration is still, after almost 40 years, not under control. And it’s only about 400 miles from Colorado Springs. But really, why should anyone care, It only affected a bunch of poor Indians.

United Nuclear Corporation knew that there were cracks in the dam of the trailings pond, but didn’t want to spend the money to fix them. And the people downstream, the same kinds of people—poor people—that corporations continually exploit for bigger and better profits didn’t have the power to make a stink about it.

Fast forward 40 years, fast forward to a new administration and climate change denial.

Examples of Corporate Cover-Ups for Environmental Disasters

  • The Church Rock disaster in Colorado;
  • Disasters at Three Mile Island, or Fukushima, or Chernobyl;
  • Hundreds of thousands of miles of leaky pipeline;
  • The Kennecut Copper Mine, a mine so big it makes its own weather;
  • Nestle sucking up what’s left of California’s water;
  • Millions of gallons of Corexit in the Gulf; and
  • Fracking that is causing earthquakes in Oklahoma (of all places!).

To deny that none of these environmental disasters (and the thousands of disasters not listed here) do not affect our planet is immoral. Humanity must rise up against greed. Humanity must advocate for the poor communities that are hurt most in environmental disasters. Humanity has effected climate change, and we must do whatever it takes to reverse the damage we have already caused.

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.

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