Nukes mean mines: Are we digging a new toxic legacy before the last one’s filled in?

A string of lakes across Karnes County sparkle as blue as any found in the resort towns of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Each is graced with the gentle slope of a nearby hill, where wildlife forages on its way to and from the waterline. These former mine sites were blasted open during the uranium boom that swept South Texas in the 1950s and '60s, when the U.S. military was racing to keep pace with the growing Soviet atomic-bomb program and the newborn Atomic Energy Commission was struggling to develop beneficial uses for the monstrously destructive power we had tapped. Today, 17 of Texas' earliest open-pit mines remain abandoned on private property. Land owners like to fish these man-made water features. More than a few have learned to water-ski here, despite the fact that the Texas Railroad Commission has found the sites to be emitting abnormally high levels of cancer-causing radiation.

Saturday, September 19, 2009