EPA: Don't Sacrifice Navajo Water for Uranium Mining
The Colorado Plateau of New Mexico still bears the unhealed sores of the Uranium Boom of the last century – radioactive waste piles, contaminated water and hundreds of mines on Navajo land abandoned by companies looking to make a quick profit. Despite the massive contamination, companies want to start a new era of mining in this region.
I know this because I am Diné (Navajo) and live in Church Rock, New Mexico - only yards away from a proposed new uranium mine. As a resident and former miner, I have experienced the effects of uranium exploitation first-hand. Many of my relatives and neighbors, including myself, have suffered health problems due to working at or living near the mines. In fact, one study has found that cancer rates among Navajo living near mine tailings are several times higher than the national average.
Knowing the inherent risks of this industry, I am concerned about the long-term effects and threats to the safety and health of our people, our water, and local plants and animals. An elementary school sits near the proposed uranium processing plant and I am concerned about the safety of my community.
In 1989, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency gave Hydro Resources, Inc. an “aquifer exemption.” This permit allows Hydro Resources to destroy part of the aquifer beneath our community in order to extract uranium through in situ leach processing (ISL). The EPA did this before our community even knew about the proposal.
Recently, something unprecedented happened: the EPA agreed to revisit that 1989 decision. With new evidence of how ISL mining contaminates groundwater and recent health studies, we hope the EPA reconsiders all the facts and revokes Hydro Resources’ aquifer exemption. In a region where many Diné families still live without running water, water if life!
Revoking this permit could be our last chance to protect our community from this mine.
Our communities have already experienced excessive mental anguish and health impacts because of past mining. How can the EPA allow this poisonous uranium processing in our aquifer when our people rely on this water for our future?
The EPA has a rare opportunity to right a terrible wrong before new damage occurs. Please help us to protect our community water resources by urging the EPA to revoke this aquifer exemption IMMEDIATELY before the company has a chance to begin contaminating our groundwater with uranium.
Larry J. King
Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM)
Church Rock, NM
Learn more about the issue, visit ENDAUM and New Mexico Environmental Law Center.
MORE ABOUT ENDAUM
ENDAUM is a Diné-led, grassroots organization based in the Eastern Agency of Navajo Nation. Its mission is to protect the purity of the water, air, lands and community health in areas impacted by Uranium activities for the present and future generations.
Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) began in 1994 when Hydro Resources, Inc. made public its intention to mine uranium in Church Rock and Crownpoint, NM. These are the first Diné communities targeted for new uranium mining since the 1980s. Although the Navajo Nation has a ban on Uranium mining and processing, that law does not protect many Diné communities outside of the Navajo Nation’s jurisdiction (such as Church Rock and Crownpoint). This is why we are asking for your help.
For nearly twenty years, we have worked with the nonprofit law firm, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, to keep the mining operations at bay. In a time of diminishing access to clean drinking water worldwide, we must always remember: Water is Life! Please help support ENDAUM’s efforts to protect precious water resources!
Learn more about ENDAUM’s legal casework
"Like" ENDAUM on Facebook.
MORE ABOUT Hydro Resources Inc.
Hydro Resources, Inc. is a subsidiary of Texas-based Uranium Resources, Inc. (URI). URI which has done ISL mining in South Texas resulting in contamination to the environment. A study by George Rice shows that URI’s mining significantly damaged the water at their Kingsville Dome project and the company was unable to restore the groundwater quality back to pre-mining condition. Read more about the many issues with URI’s ISL operations in South Texas on the WISE Uranium Project website. See Hydro Resources' properties in NM.
I write to urge US EPA Region 6 to revoke the aquifer exemption that the agency granted to Hydro Resources, Inc. in1989 for mining uranium in Church Rock, New Mexico.
EPA must protect underground sources of drinking water. Hydro Resources Inc. cannot be allowed to proceed with its Church Rock mining project as it will result in the contamination of groundwater that the Navajo Nation has identified as an important future source of drinking water. EPA has both the legal authority and moral obligation to revoke the aquifer exemption.
Twenty-two years ago, the EPA based its decision to issue the aquifer exemption on misleading and inaccurate data provided by Hydro Resources, and the EPA asked no questions. Now, two decades later, the EPA has an opportunity to do the right thing.
Decades after the last mining company abandoned the region, residents of northwestern New Mexico still live with the unresolved legacy of radioactive contamination and waste from Cold War-era uranium mining. They grapple with toxic groundwater, radioactive air and all the terrible health impacts that are linked to uranium. Navajos, and other local tribes, suffer from unforeseen consequences to their traditional ways of living due to effects from past mining.
These communities should not have to bear any further cultural, environmental or public health burdens from ill-conceived uranium mining operations.
There is significant evidence showing that no company has been able to clean up groundwater to pre-mining condition after using the “in situ” process. That evidence also shows that water contaminated by this technique moves freely outside of the exempted portions of aquifers, ruining clean water forever.
I urge you to exercise your authority to revoke Hydro Resources’ aquifer exemption immediately. These communities have suffered enough. You can stop it now.