While it may be a speculative musing as to whether Chris Shuey influences the editorial voices of the Gallup, and other New Mexico, media, it does appear Mr. Shuey may have built the foundation for his career on a uranium-related disaster. On the other hand, can someone blame an ambulance chaser for trying to make a living, too? For lack of a Three-Mile-Island episode in laid-back Gallup, New Mexico, Chris Shuey helped establish Southwest Research and Information Center into a vocal “expert” counterpoint against the uranium industry by apparently piggy-backing the 1979 uranium mill tailings spill near Church Rock. It was considered one of the worst tailings spills ever to have occurred in North America. We searched for conclusive evidence of deaths from this spill, but came up dry. Any official published report countering the preceding statement would be welcome.
Founded in 1971, the SRIC group established serious media credibility by milking the “dire and grotesque” human and livestock health consequences of that spill. But where was the actual damage in terms of human life and ecological disaster? We obtained the Executive Summary (dated October 1982) of an NMEID report, entitled, “The Church Rock Uranium Mill Tailings Spill: A Health and Environmental Assessment.” The authors of the report concluded, “To summarize, the spill affected the Puerco River valley environment for a brief period, but it had little or no effect on the health of local residents.” This report was issued three years after the “largest single release of liquid radioactive waste in the United States” (some 94 million gallons of acidified effluent and tailings slurry).
Some might speculate if the newspaper reports published in 1979 about this spill have the sound and smell of shoddy, yellow journalism. Others might marvel if those stories were more suited only for the most laughable supermarket tabloids. If one were to believe what was written then, the entire population of Gallup, New Mexico should have vanished off the face of the earth by now. Helping to fuel SRIC’s present-day hysteria over uranium mining, the environmental group has been arguing that HRI’s proposed uranium ISL project, near the Church Rock boundary of the Navajo reservation, would cause ground water contamination, perhaps with the same gravity of the previous tailings spill. In a sense they appear to be evoking bad memories of that spill. “He is very good at using the media,” sighed HRI’s Craig Bartels. “It is a few people who are very vocal,” explained Bartels as he described the SRIC’s opposition to his company’s ISL operation, “especially Chris Shuey, who touts himself as a journalist.” Continue Reading