Talks Underway on Disposal of Uranium-Contaminated Sludge at Gore

Lawsuits brought by the State of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation over a closed uranium plant near Gore have been on hold for nearly two months.

Sequoyah County District Court Judge Jeff Payton issued an order in May staying the restraining orders against Sequoyah Fuels. The state and the tribe sought to stop the company from disposing of uranium-contaminated sludge in permanent sites at the former plant site.

In issuing the order, the judge indicated the parties in the lawsuits agreed to the move. He also stated that “no further pleadings or discovery will be required or allowed by the parties unless and until a Motion to Lift stay is filed and ruled upon.”

Terri Watkins, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office indicated it came at the request of the Cherokee Nation.

“It’s to evaluate what might happen with the mud,” she told OK Energy Today. Another hearing might be held in October or November to see if there is any progress in negotiations.

The original restraining orders were sought when Sequoyah Fuels indicated it could not dispose of the sludge off-site as it originally agreed to do as part of the settlement of a lawsuit. The company had collected an estimated 11,000 tons of uranium-contaminated sludge. But there are fears that disposing of the sludge at the site of the decommissioned plant might result in pollultion of the nearby Illinois and Arkansas Rivers.

At the time of the filing of the restraint order, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker issued a statement.

 

“The Cherokee Nation is a staunch defender and protector of our natural resources. We will not stand idly by and allow the Arkansas River, one of our most precious resources, and the Cherokee community of Gore to be polluted. The Cherokee Nation will fight for the rights of our people to live safely in their communities, and for the rights of our future generations to inherit an environment free of hazardous pollution,” Baker said.

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