Idaho firm wins latest contract for Moab cleanup

An Idaho-based company will oversee continued cleanup efforts at a former uranium ore processing mill near Moab, Utah, under a federal contract worth more than $121 million over the next five years.

The Department of Energy announced it had awarded a competitive small business contract worth $121.2 million to Portage, an engineering and environmental remediation services firm based in Idaho Falls.

“Today’s award means that we can continue to advance cleanup at the Moab project and will bring the department even closer to fulfilling its commitment here in Utah,” said Donald Metzler, director of the project.

Portage will be responsible for the shipment of radioactive mill tailings and other wastes at the former Atlas plant just northwest of Moab to a disposal site near Crescent Junction 30 miles to the north.

The company also will be responsible demolishing man-made structures at the Moab plant and cleaning up any contamination on nearby properties.

The latest contract represents another step in what’s been a long process to clean up a massive pile of uranium mill tailings at the former Atlas plant. The site is located along the west bank of the Colorado River at its confluence with Moab Wash. About 130 acres of the 435-acre site contain tailings.

Since February 2009, more than 4.6 million tons of tailings have been moved to the Crescent Junction disposal site, mostly by rail cars.

“The Moab project has the potential of being one of the Department of Energy’s most successful environmental cleanup projects,” Metzler said.

“In the last four years, tremendous progress has been made in moving the mill tailing materials away from the Colorado River.”

EnergySolutions, a firm headquartered in Salt Lake City, received a four-year contact worth nearly $100 million in 2007 to start the project.

Founded in 1992, Portage has grown from a small firm with an office in Idaho Falls to a large operation with 400 employees and major offices in Montana, New Mexico and Texas. Portage has made the Inc. magazine listing of the fastest-growing privately held firms in the United States six times in the last 10 years and has ranked among the top 500 firms four times.

The company performs work for the Department of Energy and Department of Defense as well as other federal and state agencies, tribal governments and private industry.