Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area - Washington

  • February 01, 2011

Radioactive Remains

mr-lakerooseveltLake Roosevelt, located on the Columbia River above the Grand Coulee dam, is among the largest lakes in Washington, bordered by the Spokane and Colville Indian reservations. Here, outdoor enthusiasts can sail or windsurf, walk sandy beaches, view the mountains of the Kettle River range, or hike ponderosa pine forests and grasslands. East of the lake is a former uranium mine that has left behind mining waste so toxic that the site has been given federal Superfund priority status.

Washington's Midnite mine, operating for nearly a quarter century, was small compared to others, disturbing only 350 acres. But over its lifetime, it extracted an estimated 5.3 million tons of uranium ore and 33 million tons of toxic waste rock. Government studies have confirmed that the toxic piles and mine pits filled with contaminated surrounding soil and groundwater. Similar to many hardrock mines operating under the lax regulation of the 1872 Mining Law, the Midnite mine will likely require wastewater treatment "in perpetuity."

Side Trips:

Next, visit Salmon River.