Monthly Archives: August 2011

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United Nations General Assembly A/HRC/18/33/Add.4 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation

UN General Assembly Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitati…United Nations General Assembly A/HRC/18/33/Add.4 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, Catarina de Albuquerque

8/22/2011 James W. Zion Report to UN CERD on human right to safe drinking water and sanitation

James Zion Letter to Patrick Thorn Berry UN CERD Committee Member“>

Downwinders meeting at Leupp Chapter House on Friday, August 26, 2011

Please attend a DOWNWINDERS MEETING with North Country HealthCare at Cameron Chapter House at 10:00 AM DST on Friday, August 26, 2011 at Leupp Chapter House on the Navajo Nation. North Country HealthCare Radiation Exposure Screening and Education Program (RESEP) will present and host questions and answers for uranium miners, millers, downwinders and ore transporters, medical Screenings for early detection of diseases, referrals for medical treatment, education and assistance with medical documentation for the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) program. North Country’s presentation will be followed by other special presentations. Everyone is invited! Snacks will be served. Please bring food to share. For more information, please contact Forgotten People (928) 401-1777 or North Country Health Care: (928) 213-6180.

8/23/2011 NY Times: 5.8-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes East Coast

8/23/2011 NY Times: 5.8-Magnitude Earthquake Strikes East Coast By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE: A 5.8-magnitude earthquake based in Virginia sent tremors from the nation’s capital to New York City and New England Tuesday afternoon, officials said. Buildings throughout major metropolitan centers in the northeast were evacuated after the quake, and tremors were felt as far north as Bath, Me., and as far south as Hampstead, N.C., with some limited reports of damage reported near the quake’s epicenter in Virginia, where a nearby nuclear power plant was taken offline. Amtrak trains were temporarily halted, and cellphone service was disrupted as calls flooded cellular systems.

While there were only limited reports of damage, the breadth of the quake rattled nerves along the Northeast. The streets of downtown Washington filled with thousands of people on Tuesday afternoon as buildings from the Capitol to the White House were evacuated following the 1:51 p.m. quake, which lasted by varying accounts anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds.

Andre Smith-Pugh, a 25-year-old carpentry worker, was high above the Eisenhower Executive Office Building when he felt the shaking.

“It felt like the scaffolding was coming down,” he said in an interview. “It felt like a big truck slammed into the side of the building right here at the White House.”

He and his work crew climbed down and gathered outside the White House. None were injured, he said, but all were rattled. Reuters quoted Richard Weinberg, a spokesman for the National Cathedral in Washington, as saying “at least three pinnacles on the central tower have broken off” because of the earthquake.

Several buildings in New York City were evacuated, with employees standing in the streets in midtown Manhattan. Rumbles were reported on Twitter from places as far-flung as Martha’s Vineyard, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee.

“Our townhouse started shaking a short time ago and branches started to fall off trees and hit our windows and hit our roof like crazy,” said Bill Parks of Hummelstown, Pa. “It lasted about 10 seconds and was as bad as the Northridge after shock I had experienced while visiting in California. I ran outdoors and found my neighbor calling a friend in Virginia who also felt the profound quake. This quake was like none I ever experienced in the East in my life and I am 76 years old.”

Dr. Arthur Lerner-Lam, head of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Division of Seismology, said the earthquake occurred in a part of Central Virginia that is known as an area of geologically old faults, created several hundred million years ago when the Appalachian Mountains were forming. The area has frequent small earthquakes; the largest previously recorded was one of magnitude 4.8 in 1875.

“We do expect earthquakes to occur here,” he said. “Not as frequently as in California, but this is not a surprise.” He described the Central Virginia earthquakes as “kind of a randomized reactivation of these geologically old structures” as opposed to the tremors that occur along an active fault such as the San Andreas in California.

In Mineral, Va., a town about of about 500 people located four miles from the quake’s center, residents reported extensive damage to items inside homes. China shattered and pictures fell off walls. The Virginia epicenter was just miles from a decades-old nuclear power plant, the North Anna, operated by Dominion Power in Richmond, where two reactors were taken offline, although there were no reports of damage there.

Sherry Gibson, 42, owner of Sherry’s Snip & Style in Mineral, had popped home for a few minutes when the earthquake hit.

“The whole ground just shook and shook and kept on shaking,” she said. The noise was so loud, she said, that it sounded like a plane falling out of the sky. China blew out of the cabinet, and her mantle pulled away from the wall.

Some of her neighbors have cracks in their walls, she said, but she had not heard of any injuries and she said the town had not lost electricity.

The tremors were even felt in Boston, where John D. Tuerck said he felt “a discernible swaying on the 18th floor” of his office tower. He added: “Not something one expects here, for sure.”

In downtown Manhattan, police officers ordered the evacuation of New York’s City’s Hall a few minutes before 2 p.m., sending Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his staff scurrying out of the building.

Mr. Bloomberg, standing in front of the grand Renaissance-style building, said he had felt the tremors but assumed they stemmed from extensive renovations underway inside City Hall. “I did feel a little bit of shake,” he said.”And then it got greater.” “So far,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “we have no reports of any damage.”

In Fort Greene, Brooklyn, calls of “did you feel that?” could be heard on nearly every street corner.

“I’m from California and I thought, ’that feels like an earthquake, but no, it can’t be an earthquake!’” said Matt Flammer, 23, who was standing in Bespoke Bicycles, the shop where he works on Lafayette Avenue, when the bikes on the wall began to sway.

In Washington, the tremor caused strong shaking in the Capitol, which was quickly evacuated for a structural evaluation. Chandeliers swayed and one short burst shook the centuries-old building. With a pro forma Senate session scheduled, Senate officials gathered across Constitution Avenue to determine how to proceed.

President Obama was in Martha’s Vineyard during the quake and Vice President Biden spent Tuesday in Japan, coincidentally touring areas that were devastated by the earthquake and attendant tsunami earlier this year.

But the biggest jolts occurred closer to the quake’s epicenter in Virginia.

Chuck Thies, 46, a political consultant who lives in Mount Pleasant in Washington, D.C., was writing an email on his computer on the top floor of his four-story building when the shaking started. It lasted a harrowing 15 to 20 seconds, he recalled, and within 10 seconds or so of the temblor subsiding, Mr. Thies had folded up his laptop and was barefoot on the sidewalk — standing among dozens of other stunned neighbors.

But before Mr. Thies, who was home alone in his office, bolted his building, which is more than 100 years old, he suspected it was an earthquake or perhaps a major explosion.

“My five-year-old son’s Matchbox trucks started falling off the shelf in succession, and that’s when I realized it was an earthquake,” he said. “And in the kitchen, some dishes that were in the drying rack started rattling loudly against one and other. This place really shook.”

Jeff Zeleny, Carl Hulse and Elisabeth Bumiller contributed reporting from Washington; Elizabeth Harris, Henry Fountain and Serge Kovaleski contributed reporting from New York City, and Abby Goodnough contributed from Brattleboro, Vt..

8/23/2011 US EPA Press Release: Over 80 Tribal Schools in Arizona, Navajo Nation to improve environmental management

8/23/2011 US EPA Press Release: Over 80 Tribal Schools in Arizona, Navajo Nation to improve environmental management – EPA Announces Settlement with the Department of the Interior to Resolve Violations at 164 DOI Schools in Indian Country, benefitting more than 40,000 students nationwide Contact: Margot Perez-Sullivan: SAN FRANCISCO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced a comprehensive settlement with the Department of the Interior to address alleged violations of waste, water, air, toxics and community right-to-know laws at schools and public water systems in Indian Country owned or operated by DOI’s Indian Affairs Office.

Fifty-five tribal schools in Arizona and thirty-one New Mexico-Navajo territory are impacted. The settlement will protect student’s health and the health of communities in Indian Country by reducing potential exposure to environmental hazards.

“Children are more vulnerable to environmental exposures than adults, which is why ensuring that schools provide safe, healthy learning environments for our children, particularly in tribal communities, is a top priority for EPA,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s landmark settlement will help strengthen public health and environmental protection in Indian Country and will improve environmental management practices at federally managed tribal schools.”

“The Federal government has a trust responsibility to protect human health and the environment in Indian Country,” said Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for EPA’s Pacific Southwest office. “We are pleased that the Department of Interior is taking steps to ensure that native children growing up in small communities on the Navajo and other reservations benefit from the same healthy educational environment as all other Americans.”

The settlement will correct all of DOI’s alleged violations at 72 schools and 27 water systems nationally. DOI will implement an environmental compliance auditing program and an environmental management system (EMS), designed to improve environmental practices at all of its Indian Country schools and public water systems serving these schools. DOI has also agreed to install a solar energy system which will serve a school located in the Grand Canyon. The solar energy project will help ensure a more reliable source of electricity for the school and local community. DOI will also pay a civil penalty of $234,844 which it must spend to correct violations of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) at its schools.

EPA conducted compliance inspections and data reviews at more than 100 DOI schools and public water systems. The settlement addresses all alleged violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Emergency Planning and Community-Right-to-Know Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act’s PCB provisions, and AHERA.

The settlement affects 60 tribes throughout the U.S. which have DOI Office of Indian Affairs schools or public water systems on or near their tribal lands. Consistent with EPA’s consultation process with tribes, EPA consulted with the 60 tribes affected prior to finalization of the settlement agreement.

More information on the settlement:

8/22/2011 CENSORED NEWS: Hopi file lawsuit over recycled wastewater on San Francisco Peaks

8/22/2011 CENSORED NEWS: Hopi File Lawsuit over Sewage Effluent Contract By Hopi Tribe: The Hopi Tribe Initiates Litigation against the City of Flagstaff to Enjoin the Illegal Contract for the Sale of Reclaimed Wastewater to the Snowbowl. KYKOTSMOVI, Ariz. – On Friday, August 19, 2011, the Hopi Tribe filed a lawsuit against the City of Flagstaff in Arizona Superior Court in Coconino County challenging the City’s decision in September 2010 not to amend or cancel the contract for the sale of reclaimed wastewater to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort (“Snowbowl”) for snowmaking.

The lawsuit states that the City’s contract to sell 1.5 million gallons of reclaimed wastewater per day to Snowbowl is illegal because it violates several Arizona laws that govern the proper use of reclaimed wastewater. The contract provides for the use of reclaimed wastewater in a mountain setting where runoff and overspray cannot be prevented, as Arizona law requires. Additionally, restrictions on limiting human contact with wastewater cannot be met, and harm to the unique alpine environment in the area, including rare animals and plants, cannot be prevented.

The contract is also illegal under Arizona law because it will result in unreasonable environmental degradation and will further deplete limited drinking water resources. As stated in the complaint, the use of reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking will unreasonably harm the environment, create a public nuisance, and infringe upon the public’s, including the Hopi Tribe’s, use and enjoyment of the area around Snowbowl as well as infringe on the Hopi Tribe’s reserved water rights.

The City’s sale of reclaimed wastewater to the Snowbowl will cover a portion of the San Francisco Peaks with artificial snow made from reclaimed wastewater. The San Francisco Peaks, and in particular Snowbowl, is ecologically unique and contains rare types of habitat and species. The City’s illegal contract allows wastewater to run off and spray into wilderness areas specifically used by the Hopi Tribe and others, impeding and infringing on the use and enjoyment of these areas by the Hopi Tribe and others.

Reclaimed wastewater is water that has been used and processed through the City’s wastewater system. Snowmelt from artificial snow made from reclaimed wastewater will be environmentally harmful because it contains chemicals including endocrine disruptors, which can interfere with natural hormone levels and processes in humans and animals. Negative impacts of endocrine disrupters include aberrant sexual development, behavioral and reproductive problems. Key species in the San Francisco Peaks ecosystem, such as frogs, are particularly susceptible to these harmful effects.

The Hopi Tribe will show that the illegal contract for the sale and use of reclaimed wastewater at Snowbowl will result in a very large net economic loss for the San Francisco Peaks community. The small increase in profits anticipated by the Snowbowl and minimal economic benefits to the area are far outweighed by much higher costs, including environmental damage, for the San Francisco Peaks’ community, including the Hopi Tribe.

The effects of the reclaimed wastewater cannot be confined to the ski area and, therefore, users of the Peaks in the vital and accessible areas around Snowbowl will be harmed if the illegal contract is allowed to stand. The Hopi Tribe seeks a judicial order prohibiting performance on this contract to sell reclaimed wastewater to Snowbowl, as the contract is for an illegal purpose and contrary to public policy.

The Hopi Tribe Chairman Leroy Shingoitewa stressed the importance of the case to the Hopi Tribe. “The health and safety of the Hopi people is indistinguishable from the health and safety of the environment — protection of the environment on the San Francisco Peaks is central to the Tribe’s existence. The use of reclaimed sewage on the San Francisco Peaks as planned by the City of Flagstaff and Snowbowl will have a direct negative impact on the Hopi Tribe’s frequent and vital uses of the Peaks.”

For more information, contact (928) 734-3107.

Wall Street Journal: Invisible Menace Murky Science Clouded Japan Nuclear Response

Wall Street Journal: Invisible Menace: Murky Science Clouded Japan Nuclear Response By Yuka Hayashi: IITATE, Japan — After a third explosion rocked Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex on March 15, the weather took a worrisome turn. A wind that had been blowing steadily out to sea shifted to the northwest, carrying plumes of radiation up a river known locally as the “corridor of wind.” That evening, a late-winter snow began falling on this mountain village [called Iitate]. Residents awakened the next day to a blanket of white over their homes, roads, cow pastures and pine forests. They stepped outside and began shoveling.

Back in Tokyo, officials had information suggesting that the snow carried radiation to this community 17 miles from the stricken plant, well outside the government’s evacuation zone. Nevertheless, a week passed before government officials gave residents any clear indication that their town of 6,000 had become a nuclear “hot spot,”and even then they were hesitant to order residents to get out. “We spent a lot of time debating because we knew we were making a very profound decision,” says Toshimitsu Honma, a member of the Nuclear Safety Commission’s emergency committee, and deputy director general at the Nuclear Safety Research Center, a government agency.

Some young people in the village who were tuned in to Internet chatter about contamination grew frustrated. In late March, Kenta Sato, 29 years old, turned to his new Twitter account, sending hundreds of dispatches from his smartphone. He attracted 5,700 followers, including several members of Parliament. “Since the government won’t issue an evacuation order despite constantly high radiation levels, I have to keep working in a place where radiation comes falling down all day long,” he wrote on March 26. “Please help!”

A Wall Street Journal examination of what happened in Iitate shows how challenging it can be to assess the dangers of fallout. Deciding to evacuate towns closer to the plant, where fallout was heavier, was a relative no-brainer. But radiation measurements taken at dozens of locations around Iitate differed widely, and science didn’t offer a clear answer for whether the measured amounts were too much. In the end, it took government officials more than a month to decide that Iitate was too dangerous to inhabit. And by then, many residents, particularly older ones, didn’t take the warnings seriously.

Confusion over what to do about radioactive contamination is playing out in various forms all over Japan. Officials are struggling to figure out where it is safe to live, what is safe to eat and how farmers decontaminate their fields. At present, 116,000 people remain unable to return to their homes due to the radiation threat. Even as the government continues to ask more people to evacuate, it is mulling allowing others to return to towns where contamination is relatively light.

While high levels of radiation are unequivocally dangerous, the science regarding health effects of the kind of lower-level contamination that has spread far from the plant is surprisingly hazy. There is no clear-cut scientific consensus on what level of fallout should trigger mandatory evacuation, or on how long-term exposure to radiation at the levels being measured in places like Iitate affect health. Further muddying the picture, the spread of radiation has been fiendishly unpredictable, skipping some areas and showing up in concentrated hot spots elsewhere.

For the first few days after the March 11 tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant, authorities were confronted with a succession of frightening explosions and fires. The government ordered everyone living within 12.4 miles of the plant to evacuate, and those between 12.4 and 18.6 miles to stay indoors. Residents of Iitate and other towns outside these zones had a sliver of good fortune: a steady wind was carrying the radiation out to sea.

The wind shift on the afternoon of March 15 erased that advantage. Back in Tokyo, a government computer system called Speedi was crunching weather data to predict how radioactive emissions would spread. After the wind shift, it forecast that contamination was heading toward Iitate.

By the next day, the ministry of education and science, which oversees nuclear research, had sent a team to Nagadoro, a hamlet in the southern part of Iitate, to monitor radiation. Soon other teams arrived from elsewhere in Japan. They drove specially equipped vans with radiation sensors mounted to the roofs. Before long, they were monitoring the air in 36 separate spots around Iitate.

The government posted radiation data online, but it provided no interpretation. When Mr. Sato heard about contamination from other young residents, he left town to stay with his mother two towns away. But on March 21, his father decided to reopen a small business he owns that cleans metal molds used to make concrete blocks. He asked all six of his employees, including his son, to report back to work. Feeling trapped, Mr. Sato began pressing for the government via Twitter, to evacuate the village.

At the Nuclear Safety Commission, the government’s nuclear-policy advisory body in Tokyo, Mr. Honma was monitoring data from Iitate and surrounding communities. The prefecture government had reported high levels of radiation in the air in Iitate as early as March 15. Mr. Honma says he became convinced that the area had received sizable doses of radiation.

But whether those doses were sufficient to warrant evacuation was another matter. Very high radiation doses, such as from an atomic bomb, can burn, poison or kill. But the effects of smaller doses aren’t nearly as clear.

In theory, any exposure to radioactive elements raises the risk of cancer, especially in young children. But the effects of slight increases are difficult to measure, particularly because about 40% of people eventually get some form of cancer under normal circumstances, according to the National Cancer Institute in the U.S.

Human radiation exposure is measured in units called sieverts. A chest x-ray delivers a dose of about 0.04 millisieverts, and traveling from New York to Tokyo by plane, where cosmic rays are higher than on the ground, comes in at 0.07 millisieverts. Such natural and man-made sources add up to around 3 millisieverts per year for the average U.S. resident, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

Many experts contend that a dose of 100 millisieverts raises the risk of cancer by 0.5% — no matter how long the time period over which it is absorbed. The International Commission on Radiological Protection, an independent international body, recommends immediate evacuation of people at that level. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there is no hard evidence linking health problems to doses below 100 millisieverts. Japanese government guidelines stipulated that residents should be evacuated once doses of accumulated radiation exceed 50 millisieverts. For exposures of 10 to 50 millisieverts, the guidelines said, they should be told to stay indoors.

Radiation levels in Iitate peaked on March 17 and 18, then began falling, Mr. Honma says. But because the radiation wasn’t gone, the overall accumulated dosages continued to climb. At one of the town’s hot spots, the accumulated dose was 28 millisieverts through March 28, according to the Nuclear Safety Commission, which projected that it would eventually reach 35.

By early April, Mr. Honma says, he was in favor of evacuation, but the government guidelines suggested it wasn’t warranted. “The real problem was the 50 millisievert rule,” he says.

Toshiso Kosako, a radiation-safety specialist who was then a special adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan — he resigned in late April to protest the government’s handling of the crisis — urged Mr. Kan’s cabinet on March 22 to classify parts of Iitate and surrounding towns as “highly contaminated zones.” In a document submitted to senior government officials, he said that radiation monitoring needed to be beefed up, that childhood thyroid cancer was a risk. In another document two days later, he urged the government to consider expanding the evacuation zone to include those communities.

The government says it did beef up monitoring. Noriyuki Shikata, a government spokesman, said Mr. Kosako was just one adviser, and that others held different views. With no consensus among its experts, the Nuclear Safety Commission didn’t prod the government to expand the zone to include Iitate. “We are aware that there are some areas outside [the evacuation zones] that are contaminated, but it is our judgment that there won’t be health consequences as a result,” Haruki Madarame, the commission’s chairman said.

Many villagers, including town officials, believed they were safe. By March 30, only 259 villagers had taken shelter at an evacuation facility outside of Fukushima prefecture.

Mr. Sato’s own father, Koichi, continued to drink tap water and eat vegetables grown in local gardens. His father’s elderly mother and five dogs stayed put in Iitate, too. One morning, he opened his windows to let in the spring air, triggering a shouting match with his son, who by then was carrying a compact radiation monitoring tool.

“I understand why young people may be worried, but in 20 years or 30 years, I’d be dead anyway, whether I get cancer from radiation or not,” says the elder Mr. Sato, who is 57. He says he can’t leave his company and moving it isn’t an option.

The government sent several radiation experts to Iitate to talk to residents. On March 25, Noboru Takamura, a physican and Nagasaki University professor, told about 600 villagers that they could continue to live safely in Iitate if they took precautions like wearing face masks outdoors and washing hands frequently, according to the village newsletter. Mr. Takamura said recently that radiation readings in the village were below 100 millisieverts — considered the threshold for
health risk.

On March 28, a group of independent experts led by Tetsuji Imanaka, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute and an opponent of nuclear power, visited Iitate to test the air and soil.

The group took readings at more than 150 locations. At one spot, radioactivity was high enough that someone who stood there 24 hours a day would be exposed to an accumulated radiation [dose] of 160 millisieverts in a year — well above the 100 millisievert danger level. In other spots, readings were much lower.

“We saw grandpas and grandmas going about their lives in an environment that you’d only see in highly controlled areas at a nuclear power plant,” says Mr. Imanaka, who had spent years studying the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

He says his readings differed from the government’s because his team tested different locations. “Some of those places had higher radiation levels, some as high as 2 1/2 times the government figures,” he says, adding that he doesn’t think the government intentionally selected places with low dosages.

A ministry of education and science official said he hadn’t seen Mr. Imanaka’s data, but “in general, it is natural to get different figures in different places.”

Before leaving Iitate, Mr. Imanaka advised Norio Kanno, the village chief, to evacuate children as soon as possible. Masuro Sugai, an economist in Mr. Imanaka’s group, said the village chief was more interested in learning how to clean up contaminated soil so farmers could plant again. Mr. Kanno and other village officials declined to comment.

On March 30, the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency said the radiation level of a soil sample from Iitate exceeded what it considered the threshold for evacuation.

Doctors sent in by the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency tested thyroid glands of several hundred children in Iitate around the same time. They said everyone cleared the government standard. Critics said the results were skewed because the test was done more than two weeks after the accident, when radiation levels were declining.

As the days wore on, village elders grew resistant to any evacuation. In a letter submitted to the central government on April 9, Mr. Kanno, the village chief, complained that the government had released information about Iitate’s contamination before consulting village officials, inflicting “immeasurable pain and stress” on residents.

“I have tried everything I can to avoid emptying the village completely,” Mr. Kanno said in a recent speech. Some young residents, including the younger Mr. Sato, criticize village officials for not taking the lead in evacuating people. “People in power — the village chief and assembly members — are all in their sixties and seventies and can’t abandon the village,” says Mr. Sato. “Because they are staying, children can’t leave. These adults have become a burden on the young people.”

On April 22, Tokyo finally ordered residents of Iitate and four other municipalities with similar hot spots to evacuate. The government cited a recommendation by the International Commission on Radiological Protection that once the emergency phase of a nuclear accident passes — it didn’t specify when that point arrives — the exposure of local residents should not exceed 20 millisieverts per year.

Some in Iitate were in no hurry to get out. When village schools reopened for a new school year in mid-April in rented space in a neighboring town, roughly 400 children were still living in Iitate and had to be bused to the new locations. The village hall stayed open until June 22. Nine businesses have gotten permission to continue operating and let their workers commute in.

“My reaction was ‘Why now?'” the elder Mr. Sato, who wasn’t allowed to keep his business in Iitate open, said in June. “They had told us time and again levels here were low enough.”

By last week, the only people still living in Iitate were 108 residents of a nursing home — the elderly were not required to evacuate — and 10 others who refused to budge, including Mr. Sato and his mother.

Phred Dvorak contributed to this article.


About a year after their initial investigation, the EPA demolished Elsie’s highly-contaminated hogan. EPA consultant Andrew Sowder is seen at the end of this clip suggesting that the agency should construct fencing or a sign around the area to protect local residents from further contamination.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Jennifer Amdur Spitz (773) 771-7696: NAVAJO FILM & MEDIA CAMPAIGN WIN CLEAN UP OF URANIUM CONTAMINATION: Filmmaker and Navajo activist invited to teach tribal environmental leaders how to build new groundswells for action: GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN — An internationally acclaimed documentary film, The Return of Navajo Boy tells a Navajo family history involving Hollywood, houses made out of uranium, and a long lost boy. The film and public engagement campaign are credited with triggering a federal investigation into uranium poisoning, pressuring changes in federal legislation, and after a decade of persistence, inspiring the EPA to clean up uranium contamination at Elsie Begay’s home. Now, the Navajo activists and filmmakers are bringing their media justice experience to other tribal environmental activists at the Tribal Lands and Environment Forum in Green Bay, WI.

“While everyone is talking about Japan’s radiation crisis, the Navajo Nation is struggling to secure a federal clean up of Cold War uranium contamination,” says Spitz. “Navajos are dying of cancer at high rates, and we’re working with new media tools to fight for environmental justice.”

Since the film’s premier at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, filmmaker Jeff Spitz and Navajo grandmother and activist Elsie May Begay have criss-crossed the nation showing the film and telling the story. Spitz raises awareness through the media, websites, and live events by working through Groundswell Educational Films, the Chicago-based nonprofit he co-founded.

Groundswell enables Navajo activists to film the clean up with video cameras and travel around the reservation educating
peers on health issues surrounding uranium. Sparked by the success of this advocacy effort, tribal leaders invited Groundswell Films and Navajo activist Mary Begay to present the keynote at the 2011 Tribal Lands and Environment Forum on August 23rd in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This special presentation of The Return of Navajo Boy, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and PBS will include a ‘webisode’ about the clean up taking place at this time in Monument Valley.

Navajo activist Mary Begay will introduce the film, its recent epilogue and new webisodes which she filmed. Groundswell co-founder Jennifer Amdur Spitz will share Groundswell’s methodology for media and social change. In addition, Groundswell is bringing attorney John Hueston, formerly the lead prosecutor in the Enron trials to discuss “Potentially Responsible Party” lawsuits involving major corporations and their environmental legacies. On behalf of the Navajo Nation Hueston successfully negotiated with GE and then pursued Kerr-McGee resulting in more than $20 million in new funds targeted for cleaning up Cold War-era uranium contamination in the Navajo Nation. Over 500 more abandoned uranium mines remain on the Navajo Reservation.

“Members of our tribal steering committee had seen this documentary at other venues and believed showing it at our forum would make a wonderful addition to breakout sessions and trainings,” said Todd Barnell, Program Coordinator at the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals. “They believed that showing a local issue that highlights community-level involvement would be exciting and thought-provoking for our attendees.” The Tribal Lands and Environment Forum brings together tribal and federal employees working in solid waste, brownfields, Superfund sites, underground storage tanks, and emergency response. The Forum convenes at the Oneida Tribe’s Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Green Bay, from August 23rd – 25th.

The 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation contain the largest uranium deposits in the US and more than 500 abandoned Cold War era uranium mines according to the US EPA, which continue to contaminate land, water and homes and impact the health of residents.

* 1950s-1970s: The US government failed to warn Navajos about the dangers of uranium mining and radioactive waste despite the fact that the United States government was the sole purchaser of all the uranium.
* In 1990 Congress passed the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). RECA represents an official government apology to victims of America’s Cold War nuclear program. RECA expressly acknowledges the United States’ failure to warn three groups of victims: uranium miners, on-site atomic test victims and downwind communities exposed to fallout from the atomic bomb tests.
* In 2005 the Navajo Nation became the first indigenous government to ban uranium mining and exploration on its lands.
* In 2006 and 2007 Congress, led by Henry Waxman (D-California, Chair of the Budget and Government Oversight Committee) sought direct testimony from Navajo officials and demanded a plan of action from the five federal agencies responsible for what Waxman described as a “40 year history of bipartisan failure and a modern American tragedy”.
* In 2008 Congress authorized a comprehensive 5-year plan to coordinate the clean up of contaminated structures, soil and water in the Navajo Nation. This summer marks the fourth year of the EPA’s comprehensive clean up plan.
* In April 2011 US EPA began its clean up operation in Monument Valley at the abandoned Skyline Mine which contaminated the homesite of the Navajo family featured in The Return of Navajo Boy.

About Groundswell: Groundswell Educational Films is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization with a mission to collaborate across cultures in the art of documentary filmmaking, transfer media skills into disadvantaged communities and partner with stakeholders to engage audiences in social justice stories.

About 2011 Tribal Lands Forum: Tribal Lands and Environment: A National Forum on Solid Waste, Emergency Response, Contaminated Sites, and USTS is hosted by The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals, National Tribal Waste and Response Assistance Program (TWRAP) Steering Committee and USEPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER).

2011 World Water Week

“>. Event Finder: Use our interactive Event Finder to explore this year’s programme, to find sessions that match your interests and to make your own schedule. Event Finder is fully equipped with “ShareThis” for social media network users.

8/21/2011 Att'y letter to UN CERD & Right to Water and Free Assembly

James Zion Letter to Patrick Thorn Berry UN CERD Committee Member“>JAMES W. ZION, Attorney at Law, Admitted in the Navajo Nation, Connecticut and the United States Supreme Court, 3808 Ladera Drive N.W., Albuquerque, NM 87120, (505) 839-9549, August 21,2011 TO: Professor Patrick Thornberry CMG, Professor of International Law, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Keele University, Keele, Staffordshire, UNITED KINGDOM ST5 5BG

Re: Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute Issues and CERD: Dear Professor Thornberry: I was privileged to be in the audience on 22 February 2008 when you had a closing discussion with the United States Mission to the United Nations on the U.S. periodic report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You specifically asked that the United States mention the status of Big Mountain and Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute issues in its next periodic report to CERD. It is due on 20 November of this year.

I am the attorney for The Forgotten People, a non-governmental organization that serves the Navajo survivors of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute, including individuals who still live on Hopi lands on Black Mesa. One of the issues they face is getting potable water, and it must be hauled to homes by truck. The dirt roads in the area are poor and require frequent maintenance. The Forgotten People has projects with attempts to obtain funding and logistical support so it can get water carried to people in affected areas in the western part of the Navajo Nation. That includes those who live in areas where the ground water is contaminated with uranium waste from mining and remote communities of Navajos without water who are ignored by both the Navajo and the Hopi tribes.

The specific problem I write about is that The Forgotten People announced a meeting to be held at the residence of Pauline White singer at Big Mountain within the area partitioned to the Hopi Tribe on Monday, August 22, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. to “discuss a request for safe drinking water delivery and impassable dirt road repair.” The purpose of the meeting is to ask for assistance from the Navajo and Hopi tribes to get water hauled to homes at Big Mountain and to get the roads in and out of the area graded.

The news of the meeting came to the attention of Mr. LeRoy N. Shingoitewa, the Chairman of the Hopi Tribe, and on August 19, 2011 he wrote to Marsha Monestersky and Ed Becenti of The Forgotten People to inform them, among other things, that “the meeting would be in violation of the Hopi Tribe’s rules and regulations.” He added that Ms. Monestersky is the subject of an order excluding her from the Hopi Reservation (because of her advocacy for Navajo rights). He also noted that one had requested a permit to hold a meeting, when permits are not required by Hopi law and are prohibited by the Indian Civil Rights Act.

We have a situation where the chief executive of the Hopi Tribe, on learning of a meeting to discuss access to water as a human right and to petition for road repairs, has prohibited the meeting in violation of freedom of speech and assembly and the right to petition government provisions of the federal Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968.

I have been asked to bring this situation to your attention and to additionally advise that there are recurring problems of violations of the rights of the refugees of the Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute.

They include a Navajo-Hopi compact that violates individual rights and a situation whereby monies and resources held in trust by the Navajo Nation for the benefit of survivors of the Navajo-Hopi land dispute are unaccounted for and likely wasted. I will bring those matters to your attention and that of CERD as the time for the filing of the next United States CERD periodic report approaches.

I therefore bring these facts to your attention so that you will know that your February 2008 request for new information was prescient in its assessment of emerging events.

Your attention to these matters and communication to the full Committee will be appreciated. A copy of the August 19, 2011 letter signed for Chairman Shingoitewa is enclosed.

James W. Zion


LeRoy N. Shingoitewa
August 19, 2011
Herman G. Honanie
Vice Chairman

Ms. Marsha Monestersky, Program Director
Mr. Ed Becenti
The Forgotten People
Tuba City, Arizona 86045

Dear Ms. Monestersky & Mr. Ed Becenti:

It has come to my attention and the attention of the Hopi Tribal Council that you intend to hold a meeting for the HPL Navajo families on Monday, August 22, 2011, to “discuss a request for safe drinking water delivery and impassable dirt road repair,” as quoted directly from your press release. As we understand your press release, the meeting will take place on HPL, at Pauline Whitesinger’s residence in Big Mountain and will be led by Ms. Marsha Monestersky, Program Director of the Forgotten People. You have requested Hopi Tribal officials participation, as well as other directors and executive officers from the Navajo and Hopi Nations.

At this time, the Hopi Tribe will not be supporting or attending the meeting. To begin, the issues being raised – water and transportation issues – are Government-to-Government issues. Thus, a request for this type ofmeeting must come from the Navajo Nation, not the “Forgotten People.” Additionally, you should be advised that no one has requested a permit from the Hopi Nation to hold this event. As such, the meeting would be in violation of the Hopi Tribe’s rules and regulations. Finally, there is a valid and binding exclusion order for Ms. Monestersky. Thus, Ms. Monestersky is not welcome on Hopi land. Her attendance would clearly violate her exclusion order, which is currently in force.

I hope the above clarifies the Hopi Tribe’s position and we respectfully request that you abide by all Hopi rules, regulation and orders. If you have any questions regarding the Hopi Tribe’s response, please contact Mr. Clayton Honyumptewa, Director, Department of Natural Resources at (928) 734-3641 or my office at (928) 734-3100.

LeRoy N. Shingoitewa, Chairman
The Hopi Tribe
P.O. BOX 123 KYKOTSMOVI. AZ.. 86039
(928) 734-3000

Ltr. to Monestersky & Becenti
RE: Hopi Tribal Resp.

xc. Vice Chairman Honanie
Clayton Honyumptewa, DNR
Robert Lyttle, Interim Gen. Counsel
Norberto Cisneros, Asst. Gen. Counsel
Hon. President Ben Shelley NN
Raymond Maxx, NHLCO, NN