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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency has been awarded $89,260 from the U.S. EPA to conduct a yearlong study into whether abandoned uranium mines are impacting air quality in Cove, Arizona.

Uranium was extracted from land in Cove from 1949 until the late 1960s, with reclamation efforts beginning in the early 1990s, according to the U.S. EPA.

The study was proposed due to concerns by community members about winds potentially carrying radioactive nuclides from cleanup activities, according to the federal agency's press release that announced the award on April 24.

"By working with the community, we can address these concerns and help ensure people in the Cove area have important information about the air they breathe," EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Mike Stoker said in the release.

The study will start this spring and includes setting up four monitoring locations in Cove and one location outside of the community.

The Navajo Nation EPA will hire an environmental technician to collect samples each week.

"This air monitoring study will examine whether dust from abandoned uranium mines in the Cove area are transporting trace metals and radionuclides. It is important for us to learn the vulnerabilities to people and the environment," Navajo Nation EPA Director Oliver Whaley said in the release.

Whaley was confirmed by the Navajo Nation Council to head the tribal agency on April 19.

The amount will also fund community outreach efforts and purchase and situate a meteorological station at the Cove Chapter house.

The funding is part of a $5.15 billion settlement that the federal government reached with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in 2014 for cleanup costs at more than 2,000 energy sites in the U.S. that were operated by the Kerr-McGee Corp.

The settlement issued nearly $1 billion to cleanup more than 50 uranium mines operated by Kerr-McGee on the Navajo Nation, including 26 mines in Cove.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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