4/28/2011Gallup Independent: Monestersky nominated to national advisory council

Monestersky nominated to national advisory council By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau, Gallup Independent, 4/28/2011: WINDOW ROCK – Marsha Monestersky, program manager for the Forgotten People, has been nominated to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Drinking Water Advisory Council to represent the Southwest region. Monestersky was notified April 11 that she is among the nominees to fill five vacancies on the national council. The positions must be filled before May and the advisory council is now carrying out the steps associated with an extensive clearance process so the materials can be presented to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for approval. “I am thankful and blessed that the U.S. EPA and the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water nominated me to serve on the National Drinking Water Advisory Council and appreciates my interest and willingness to commit time and effort to ensure that the nation’s drinking water is safe,” Monestersky said.

“Safe drinking water is the most precious resource of all, more precious than gold. Access to safe drinking water is a human right. Scarce water supplies in the western United States and climate change will worsen. We need to take action to plan.”

The advisory council includes five members from state and local agencies concerned with drinking water; five members from interest groups concerned with drinking water; and five members from the general public. In addition, two of the 15 members on the council represent small drinking water systems.

Over the past two decades Monestersky has worked on a wide range of environmental issues confronting the Dine people living within the western portion of the Navajo Nation. Much of her work has involved efforts to improve access to safe drinking water for residents in the Bennett Freeze area, especially in the vicinity of Black Falls, Box Springs and Grand Falls where residents have been drinking uranium- and arsenic-contaminated water from livestock watering points.

In February 2009, Forgotten People completed a U.S. EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant to provide safe drinking water to Black Falls residents. The project was expanded using additional private donations to include storage and distribution systems for 10 homes. They also created a community water-hauling service and worked with EPA and Indian Health Service to design and construct bathrooms and sanitation systems for the homes.

Through the efforts of Monestersky and the Forgotten People, the Navajo Nation issued a historic Public Health State of Emergency in January 2009 for residents of the northwestern Leupp and southeastern Cameron chapters. With money provided by U.S. EPA, Navajo Water Resources purchased five water-hauling trucks and after two years of delay, delivered the first truckload of safe drinking water to residents from the Black Falls/Box Springs/Grand Falls area on April 8.

“The success we have achieved in the Black Falls region for water haulers demonstrates the power of collaborative partnerships with academic institutions, tribal and federal agencies, pastors and faith-based groups,” Monestersky said. “As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, under the Obama administration I have witnessed U.S. EPA bring science and protection back to this agency and hope to contribute to the work of the National Drinking Water Advisory Council.”

Norris Nez, a Navajo medicine man, sent a letter of support to EPA on Monestersky’s behalf, saying he views her as a competent and responsible woman with wisdom and understanding of life. “I feel that she is capable and understands what the issues are and the needs and concerns of the people in our region and throughout the planet.”

Clancy Tenley, assistant director of EPA’s Superfund program, told Monestersky in March, “We appreciate the partnership of our organizations which has resulted in significant progress in recent years.” Between Forgotten People, U.S. and Navajo EPA, Navajo Department of Water Resources, Indian Health Service and others, “more has been done to address critical water issues in this region (Black Falls) than any place I know. Of course, more needs to be done.”

James W. Zion of Albuquerque, attorney for the Forgotten People, also recommended Monestersky to EPA. “I cannot think of anyone who can better give the advisory council relevant information on the needs of Indian Country or the application of emerging international norms on the right to water,” he said.

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