MOAB — A June update by the U.S. Department of Energy said that 1.5 million tons of uranium mill tailings have been removed from near the banks of the Colorado River and buried in a disposal site 30 miles away.

Federal stimulus funding of $108 million has accelerated the cleanup, which will tackle an additional 1.2 million tons of tailings between now and September 2011.

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said in a Friday press release that he's encouraged by the progress made so far in the remediation project.

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Matheson pushed to fast-track the project and said federal recovery money is helping to accomplish a 2019 cleanup deadline.

More than 200 workers have been hired because of the funding, Matheson said. The funding also facilitated the purchase of a second gantry-crane that makes loading and unload of rail cars more efficient.

The tailings are being transported by train to a disposal site near Crescent Junction.

Some 16 million tons of uranium mill tailings have posed a threat to the Colorado River for decades. They are left over from the area's uranium mining days.

— Amy Joi O'Donoghue