The Black Falls Off-Grid Safe Water Project was a 3-way collaboration between the Forgotten People, a grassroots organization on the Navajo Nation, US EPA, and the Capacity Building Initiative at the Heller School, Brandeis University. The project was sponsored under an EPA Environmental Justice grant to address the problems faced by residents of the Black Falls community in obtaining access to safe drinking water where local sources are contaminated by uranium, arsenic and other pathogens
The methodology we used was to work with the community to develop strategies for a short term system to provide access to safe drinking water and a long term solution for full sanitation. We call this Grassroots Driven Development, or bottom up participatory development (see PPT for more info on the methodology https://app.
We did the project in 2 phases so that we could deliver something tangible as soon as possible. The first phase was building temporary water systems that featured running water into a kitchen sink. The second phase involved the construction of bathrooms partnering with Indian Health Service. We helped people interface with the health care delivery system and uranium contamination programs. We also worked with the radon testing program of the Navajo Nation EPA. As an output of our project and raising awareness of the people for remote people in 2010 the NDWR initiated a $2 million pilot water hauling program funded by USEPA.
Educational outreach also resulted in finding 100 families still drinking uranium and arsenic contaminated water in a region where local sources are contaminated by uranium, arsenic and other pathogens
This is the community map we made to plan out routes for water hauling trucks in Phase 1 of our project. It shows proximity of abandoned uranium mines to homes. This map is interactive and integrates US EPA data. It also has the directions to each person’s homes in Black Falls.