Workers pass safety milestone on tailings cleanup

Workers involved in a project to clean up a massive uranium mill tailings pile near Moab, Utah, passed a safety milestone: 2 million hours without a lost-time injury or illness.

“We have a great work force that is dedicated to the strong safety culture that has been developed on this project,” said Jeff Biagini, a manager for Portage, the remedial action contractor on the project. “This celebration belongs to the employees — they’ve earned it.”

Portage and S&K Aerospace, the technical assistance contractor on the project, celebrated the effort. Employees received orange t-shirts to wear during warmer weather. Banners were hung in locations around the project.

“Reaching this milestone demonstrates that safety is our highest priority in completing our mission to relocate 16 million tons of uranium mill tailings away from the Colorado River,” said Donald Metzler, director of the Department of Energy project.

No work-related lost-time injury or illness were reported on the Moab project for 1,584 days — a more than four-year span between November 2009 and February 2014. S&K Aerospace hasn’t reported a lost-time injury since the original contract for the work was awarded in June 2007.

Work proceeds on relocating radioactive mill tailings and other wastes at the former Atlas uranium processing plant located along the west bank of the Colorado River at its confluence with Moab Wash. The tailings and other wastes are shipped to a disposal site near Crescent Junction 30 miles to the north. About 41 percent of the mill tailings pile has been relocated.