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

Science Center Objects

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.

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?

 

Canyon Mine Sampling

USGS scientists collecting soil samples at Canyon Mine.

(Credit: Katie Walton-Day, US Geological Survey. Public domain.)