In the 1960s and 70s, New Mexico was home to hundreds of uranium mines and mills, mostly located in the western part of the state on or near the Navajo Nation. Not only did the activities associated with the mines and mills contribute to harmful air pollution, but the industry also impacted groundwater quality.
For example, a spill at a uranium mill in Church Rock, NM dumped 94 million gallons of effluent and more than 1,000 tons of acidic, radioactive sludge into an arroyo that fed into the Rio Puerco. According to the EPA, there are now hundreds of abandoned uranium mines and at least eight former mill sites in New Mexico, some of which are SuperFund sites. Not only is uranium mining connected to lung cancer, but other types of cancer, birth defects and autoimmune diseases are all tied to exposure to radioactive materials.
For more information on EPA activities related to abandoned New Mexico uranium mines, see EPA – Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines.