CR3 News Magazine 2018 February: Black History Special Edition - Page 24

Harbor, which describes sailors who died on the USS Arizona, the kiosk at the Monticello Mill site erected by the Monticello Victims of Mill Tailings Committee tells a powerful story. The interpretation begins: “The Monticello Mill ... heralded at one time as an economic boom for Monticello, providing needed jobs and promising a future of energy and defense for a nation ... left quite another impact ... The government-owned mill provided a patriotic heartbeat for the community of family-oriented pioneers, offering them a united cause for their nation.”

During the Cold War, we fought against communist ideology, but it was ourselves we were killing. By 1957 at the Monticello Mill, 214 workers daily processed 600 tons of ore. Each day, the mill spewed out 2,600 pounds of heavy metals, sulfates, carbonates, lead, arsenic, asbestos, selenium, manganese, molybdenum and gases such as hydrogen chloride and vanadium pentoxide. Chrome came off car bumpers. Screen doors changed color. White sheets hung on the line turned yellow, and fumes from the plant were “inhaled in the lungs of young and old alike; mill workers, miners, ore haulers, city residents, families and children.”

One side of the kiosk has facts about the plant, which closed in 1962, but the tailings were left exposed. Children played in the tailings piles, swam in the downstream ponds, drank from the creek below the mill. Gophers aerating the tailings were shot and killed after being tracked by Geiger counters.

The other side of the kiosk bears witness in vivid descriptions from the families of victims who died of brain tumors, leukemia and lung diseases. A physician explains, “I moved to Monticello thinking I would have a typical rural small-town practice; instead, I walked into a cancer factory.”

A high school principal bemoans ever coming to Monticello. He describes the heartbreak of having his son, captain of the basketball team, die of leukemia two months before turning 17.

HHHStunned, I left the kiosk to walk the trail. To the east rose Lone Cone Mountain.

Thunderstorms came from the west. A few raindrops landed in the dust, and I thought of all the tragic stories yet untold of uranium mining across the Colorado Plateau.

Andrew Gulliford is an historian and an award-winning author and editor. Reach him at andy@agulliford.com.

... continued from previous page (A Poisonous Past)

Thunderstorms came from the west. A few raindrops landed in the dust, and I thought of all the tragic stories yet untold of uranium mining across the Colorado Plateau.

Andrew Gulliford is an historian and an award-winning author and editor. Reach him at andy@agulliford.com.

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