U.S. Geological Survey - Environmental Health

Is Uranium in Water Resources near the Grand Canyon a Health Hazard?

Pigeon Canyon in Northern Arizona

Pigeon Canyon in northern Arizona is just north of the Grand Canyon. Here, Pigeon Spring emerges in Pigeon Canyon just before it merges with Snake Gulch in northern Arizona. Photo Credit: Donald J. Bills, USGS.

The public worries that uranium in natural geologic formations, mine tailings, dusts, water, and other geologic materials can pose a health hazard to humans and wildlife.

Mountain Sheep Spring

Mountain Sheep Spring, Arizona, is one of the 37 springs north of the Grand Canyon near areas of breccia-pipe uranium mining that U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists studied. Photo Credit: Jamie P. Macy, USGS.

Willow Spring in Hack Canyon in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. Water Not Suitable for Drinking

Willow Spring in Hack Canyon in Arizona north of the Grand Canyon. A sign next to the spring says Water Not Suitable for Drinking. The spring has elevated levels of uranium and selenium. The elevated uranium level is most likely not associated with breccia-pipe uranium mining in the area. Photo Credit: Christopher C. Fuller, USGS.

USGS Scientists Collecting Soil Samples at a Mine

USGS scientists collecting soil samples inside the perimeter fence at the Canyon Mine, Arizona. The mine's headframe and mine workshop are visible in the background. Photo Credit: Kit MacDonald, U.S. Forest Service.

Our specialized teams of hydrologists, chemists, and geologists working together at a field site in the Grand Canyon region of the United States have shown:

Elevated uranium concentrations (above the drinking water standard) were found at Pigeon Spring in the Grand Canyon area. However our science showed these uranium concentrations are naturally elevated and not related to nearby mining operations.

Questions We're Working On:

Is uranium in springs and wells elsewhere originating from natural or mining-related sources?

Are humans, fish, or wildlife in the Grand Canyon area or elsewhere being exposed to elevated uranium in water, dusts, or other geologic materials from natural or mining-related sources?

If so, do these exposures to natural uranium or uranium in mining byproducts actually pose a health hazard, and how can hazardous exposures to mining byproducts, if present, be better minimized or prevented?

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Page Last Modified: 30-Apr-2018 @ 11:51:50 AM EDT