Tag Archives: Water Contamination

6/29/2012 Gallup Independent: La Jara uranium mine would impact Mount Taylor TCP By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau

6/29/2011 La Jara Uranium Mine Would Impact Mount Taylor TCP“>

6/26/2012 Forest Service Approves Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Despite 26-year-old Environmental Review

The Havasuapi refuse to become the next millennium’s world terrorists by allowing mega nuclear industrial complex mining industries to mine in the Grand Canyon.6/26/2012 Forest Service Approves Grand Canyon Uranium Mine Despite 26-year-old Environmental Review “>

4/27/2012 Statement of Glenna Begay to Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, OHCHR

4 24 2012_Glenna Begay_Speaker FP_Land & Resources Speaker_to Special Rapporteur James Anaya“>

Tainted Desert, Tufts magazine article by Leslie Macmillian

“Tainted Desert”, Tufts magazine article by Leslie MacmillianTainted Desert, Tufts Magazine by Leslie Mac Mill Ian

10/12/2011 Navajo Hopi Observer: Water contamination threatens Hopi Partitioned Land

Photo: A picture taken near Black Mesa, Ariz., part of the Hopi Paritioned Land 10/12/2011 Navajo Hopi Observer: Water contamination threatens Hopi Partitioned Land: In response to the recent discovery of water contamination on Hopi Partitioned Lands (HPL), the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management has capped several water wells and fenced off windmills as a public safety measure, including some used by trespassing Navajo tribal members who have not signed Accommodations Agreements (AA) to reside on HPL. Water contamination was among the issues discussed earlier this month during a Navajo AA Permittees meeting held on HPL on behalf of the Navajos who have signed a 75-year AA. These AA Navajo families legally reside on HPL with grazing permits recognized by the Hopi Tribe.

“Many of the issues they’re having on not only HPL, but the Navajo Partitioned Lands (NPL), are because Navajos who have not signed the Accommodation Agreement are illegally trespassing, cutting fences and bringing in their own livestock in the middle of the night,” said Hopi Tribal Councilman Cedric Kuwaninvaya, from the village of Sipaulovi and chairman of the Hopi Land Team. “One would expect this to be a problem of Navajos against the Hopi, but it’s not; it’s Navajos against Navajos.”

Present at the Navajo AA Permittees on HPL meeting, Councilman Kuwaninvaya said he had the opportunity to speak and asked if there were any delegates from the Navajo Nation [government] at the meeting and the answer was none. “Only one representative from the Navajo grazing committee from the area was present and no one representing the Navajo Nation Council. I would have liked to have seen one of their representatives, as we have issues on both the HPL and NPL sides that we need to address as tribal governments.”

Though Navajo permittees have signed an AA, some may still require assistance from their own Navajo Nation government.

“The safety of anyone on Hopi land, not just Navajo and Hopi people, is of utmost importance to us,” said Clayton Honyumptewa, Director of Hopi Department of Natural Resources. “The capping of water wells on the HPL was due to the fact that they were contaminated with uranium and arsenic, an obvious threat to anyone who was to drink it.”

“Our Windmill Crew will actively work to repair broken or malfunctioning windmills on the HPL,” he said. “We continue to work in keeping the lands, water wells and windmills as originally intended and urge those whose lands are being infringed upon to notify us of any wrongdoings and repairs needed.”

The meeting was sponsored by the Hopi Tribe’s Office of Range Management and was attended by the Hopi windmill repair crews, Office of Hopi Lands, Hopi Resource Enforcement Services and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in addition to the Navajo-Hopi Relocation Commission, Councilman Kuwaninvaya and a staff member from the Hopi Chairman’s office.

About Hopi Partitioned Lands:

The U.S. Congress partitioned the disputed 1882 Executive Order Hopi Reservation in a 1974 Congressional Act with parcels given to Navajo and Hopi Tribes resulting in the forced relocation of both Hopi and Navajo families. Forty-nine Navajo families signed a 75-year Accommodation Agreement to reside on HPL and all Hopi families voluntarily relocated from said disputed lands. Meanwhile several Navajo families continue resisting relocation from HPL to this day. The Hopi Tribe is working to restore the HPL with guidance from Hopi stewardship values and practices.

10/3/2011 Health Care News: It's elemental: Many private wells across U.S. are contaminated with arsenic and other elements

“An estimated 15 million U.S. households regularly depend on private, unregulated and unmonitored water wells.”10/3/2011 Health Care News: It’s elemental: Many private wells across U.S. are contaminated with arsenic and other elements In Nebraska, along the Platte River, it’s uranium. In Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it’s arsenic. In California, boron. And in the Texas Panhandle, lithium. Throughout the nation, metals and other elements are tainting private drinking water wells at concentrations that pose a health concern. For one element – manganese – contamination is so widespread that water wells with excessive levels are found in all but just a few states. Arsenic, too, is a national problem, scattered in every region.

In the first national effort to monitor well water for two dozen trace elements, geologists have discovered that 13 percent of untreated drinking water contains at least one element at a concentration that exceeds federal health regulations or guidelines. That rate far outpaces other contaminants, including industrial chemicals and pesticides. The most troubling finding involves the widespread contamination of private wells, which are unmonitored and unregulated.

By Marla Cone, Editor in Chief: In Nebraska, along the Platte River, it’s uranium. In Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, it’s arsenic. In California, boron. And in the Texas Panhandle, lithium.

Throughout the nation, metals and other elements are tainting private drinking water wells at concentrations that pose a health concern.

For one element – manganese – contamination is so widespread that water wells with excessive levels are found in all but just a few states. Arsenic, too, is a national problem, scattered in every region.

In the first national effort to monitor wells for two dozen trace elements, geologists have discovered that 13 percent of untreated drinking water contains at least one element at a concentration that exceeds federal health regulations or guidelines. That rate far outpaces other contaminants in well water, including industrial chemicals and pesticides.

For public wells, the discovery is less of a concern, since water suppliers regularly test for contaminants and remove them to comply with federal standards. The most troubling finding involves the widespread contamination of private wells, which are unmonitored and unregulated.

“It was a bit surprising how many of these trace elements had exceedances of human health benchmarks, especially compared to other contaminants we are often concerned about,” said Joseph Ayotte, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, which conducted the research. “The findings certainly underscore the message we hear from the public health agencies, that everyone should test their wells for a suite of trace elements.”

Long abandoned gold processing vats leave a legacy of cyanide and arsenic contamination near Genola, Utah.

An estimated 15 million U.S. households – about 60 million people – regularly depend on private water wells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most private well owners occasionally test for bacteria, but rarely, if ever, test for anything else.

“The findings certainly underscore the message we hear from the public health agencies, that everyone should test their wells for a suite of trace elements.” – Joseph Aotte, USGS

Nearly half of all drinking water in the country comes from ground water, and usage is increasing worldwide as freshwater supplies from rivers are running low and encumbered by bitter feuds.

“Ground water is very important. It’s the invisible link to our water supply that people don’t really think about,” said David Wunsch, director of science and technology at the National Ground Water Assn. “It’s underground – out of sight, out of mind – and that’s exactly why we’ve come across the pollution problems we have.”

The geologists tested more than 5,000 wells in 40 aquifers for 23 elements – all metals and metal-like substances – plus radon.

Drier regions of the country, mostly in the West, had more wells with excessive trace elements than humid regions, and urban areas had more than agricultural areas.

“Wells with human health benchmark exceedances were widespread across the United States; they occurred in all aquifer groups and in both humid and dry regions,” the report says.

People usually test their well water only when it tastes funny or smells bad, says one scientist.

Arsenic, uranium and manganese most frequently exceeded either health standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency or health-based guidelines developed by the USGS and the EPA. Arsenic, radon and chromium are carcinogens, uranium and cadmium can damage kidneys and manganese might have neurological effects. Boron might lead to smaller fetuses and damage to male reproductive organs, while barium can cause high blood pressure and lithium can suppress the thyroid.

“Trace elements are a widespread chronic health problem,” Wunsch said. “It’s not like something that’s really dramatic where people will get sick right away, but the public needs to be informed more. Some of the things listed here – arsenic, barium, lead, cadmium, for example – can be toxic in small quantities.”

Wunsch said people usually test their well water only when it tastes funny or smells bad. “Private well water is not regulated like the public water supply is. So it’s up to the homeowner to take care of it himself,” he said.

Drier regions of the country, mostly in the West, had more wells with excessive trace elements than humid regions, and urban areas had more than agricultural areas.Mary McClintock has been drinking well water since she bought her home in Conway, Mass., 27 years ago. “I remember having the well tested before buying the house, and perhaps at one other time early on,” she said.

McClintock said she has no health concerns about her water, although a friend who lives in Leverett 15 miles away discovered his well water had excessive arsenic after he tested it at the recommendation of state officials. He and his family now drink bottled water.

“Why haven’t I tested my well? No particular reason except assuming it is a deep well and not in danger of contamination,” she said.

The USGS maps show that arsenic is mostly a problem in parts of New England east of where McClintock lives. But geologists say that it’s a misconception to believe that deeper wells are safer. Elements can be found at any depth, and some, like arsenic, are even worse in deeper wells.

“We actually anticipate that deeper wells should have more arsenic than shallow ones based on the geochemistry of mobilization of arsenic. But high concentrations can occur at any depth if the geochemical conditions are right,” Ayotte said. Sand and gravel soils are most conducive to contamination, which also depends on factors such as pH and climate.

Overall, 19 percent of the 5,183 untreated public, private and monitoring wells exceeded the health-based levels. When private drinking water wells were separated from the pack, 13 percent exceeded the health standards or guidelines.

But that national average is a bit deceptive, since some regions have a far greater frequency of problems. Hot spots for elements are congregated in clusters.

Geologists say it’s a misconception to believe that deeper wells are safer. Elements can be found at any depth, and some, like arsenic, are even worse in deeper wells.Eastern New England, for example, has a cluster of high arsenic concentrations. “What we did not know was how to connect the dots in New England states,” Ayotte said. “It became apparent [in the new study] that the high arsenic values formed a contiguous belt between three states, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”

They also found that manganese is “widespread but more prevalent in the East. It’s similar with arsenic, you can find it almost anywhere at high levels,” said Ayotte, lead author of the USGS study, also authored by Jo Ann Gronberg and Lori Apodaca.

Other arsenic hot spots include the Sacramento and Los Angeles regions of California, western Nevada, the Phoenix area, the Texas Panhandle and New Mexico along the Rio Grande, according to the new study’s maps. Others are found in Illinois, Ohio, south Florida and New Jersey.

“Arsenic is definitely a national problem with a local flavor,” Ayotte said.

Officials recommend that homeowners have their wells tested not just for bacteria, but for trace elements and other contaminants.

Most elements found in ground water are derived from natural sources, since they are part of the Earth’s crust. But even though the source is overwhelmingly natural, “the conditions that make it go into the water are not always natural,” Ayotte said. Elements can contaminate water from farms, urban runoff, mining and factories, either directly or by altering aquifer conditions to mobilize them in rocks and soil.

The EPA has set enforceable drinking water standards for 11 trace elements, what Wunsch called “the really nasty ones.” But others, including manganese, have only USGS guidelines based on a small number of health studies.

Private wells are not subject to federal standards because there are tens of millions of them, which would make it unenforceable.

Instead, EPA officials said in response to the new findings that people should test their private wells “if they suspect possible contamination.” The new USGS maps are useful for well owners who want to check the hot spots.

Testing a well for arsenic costs as little as $15 to $30, while treatment systems for removing arsenic cost $1,200 to $3,000, according to the Massachusetts Dept. of Environmental Protection.

The report notes that elements “far outpace” other pollutants, many of which get far more public attention. The 19 percent compares with 7 percent for nitrates and 1 to 2 percent for pesticides and volatile organic compounds, based on previous USGS research.

“We often get more upset about these anthropogenic contaminants but we have to remember that these naturally occurring elements are oftentimes more of a widespread problem,” Ayotte said. “Not to diminish the importance of the others, but trace elements are also hugely important and arguably more so.”

9/19/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody seeks permit renewal for Kayenta Mine

9/19/2011 Gallup Independent: Peabody seeks permit renewal for Kayenta Mine By Kathy Helms, Dine Bureau: WINDOW ROCK – Peabody Western Coal Co. has filed an application with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to renew its permit for mining operations at Kayenta Mine through July 5, 2015. Peabody submitted an application to OSM to renew the permit in February 2010, and proposes to continue mining in coal resource areas N-9, J-19, and J-21 from July 6, 2010, through July 5, 2015. The proposed permit renewal does not include any revisions to the mining and operations plan or the addition of any new mining areas.

“The Kayenta Mine is moving through a routine five-year permit renewal process covering the mine plan, land restoration plan and other activities related to ongoing operations, which is consistent with current operations,” Beth Sutton, director of Corporate Communications for Peabody Energy, said.

OSM has prepared an environmental assessment to evaluate environmental effects from the permit renewal. Comments must be submitted by Oct. 22 to be considered.

The Kayenta Mine permit area is located on approximately 44,073 acres of land leased from the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. Peabody holds leases to mine up to 670 million tons of coal from reserves within the permit area. As of July 2010, 20,851 acres within the permit area had been disturbed.

Mining activities within the lease area would result in a moderate, short-term impact, according to OSM and would disturb 1,159 acres of land used for grazing and traditional land uses. However, the federal agency said reclamation of the disturbed areas would improve the productivity and quality of grazing lands.

“The mine has a record of good environmental compliance, and typically returns mined lands to a condition that is as much as 20 times more productive for rangeland than native areas,” Sutton said.

Within the J-21 coal resource area, four of the 83 occupied houses within the Kayenta Mine permit area would be relocated. Residents would be compensated for the replacement of all structures and for lost grazing acreage if they can establish a customary use area claim.

According to the Finding of No Significant Impact, Peabody has committed to replace three windmill wells that have or would be removed by mining. Any other water supply that could be adversely impacted by mining during the five-year permit term would be replaced.

Annual groundwater use for domestic and mine-related purposes from the Navajo aquifer would average 1,236 acre-feet per year, or 70 percent less than was used prior to 2006 when the coal slurry pipeline was operating.

Water quantity use impacts to the N-aquifer are expected to be negligible to minor, and no endangered or threatened species are expected to be directly affected because there is no predicted decrease of flows in seeps and springs associated with the N-aquifer, OSM said. Pumping has been primarily occurring within the confined part of the N-aquifer, and the agency said water levels are rising or are predicted to rise because less groundwater is being used since the coal slurry pipeline was discontinued.

The number of people employed at the Kayenta Mine will increase from 422 in 2010 to 432 in 2015. The average annual revenue paid to the tribes from 2005-2009 was $43.2 million, plus an additional average annual payment of $6.2 million to Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and scholarship funds, according to OSM. These revenues are expected to continue.

“Kayenta Mine is a powerful economic force in the region creating 400 jobs and nearly $370 million in direct and indirect economic benefits for regional communities,” Sutton said. “We look forward to an efficient and timely review as part of the customary stakeholder process.”

Kayenta Mine ships approximately 8 million tons of coal annually to Navajo Generating Station.

Information: http://www.wrcc.osmre.gov/Current_Initiatives/Kayenta_Mine/Renewal.shtm or (303) 293-5035. E-mail comments to kayentarenewalea@osmre.gov

Grand Canyon Under Attack

Proposed bills in Congress would gut protections on 1 million acres of public lands around the Grand Canyon and halt a much-needed 20-year ban on new uranium mining. We’re not getting a break in our fight to stand up for wildlife, clean water, clean air and wildlands — a vote on the Grand Canyon rider, and other anti-environment riders, could come as early as midday tomorrow.

House Republicans, led by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., have introduced a radical, industry-driven legislative rider that, if passed, would block the Obama administration from imposing a long-term ban on new uranium mining across 1 million acres of public land surrounding Grand Canyon National Park. We need to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Soon, a bi-partisan group of congresspersons is expected to introduce an amendment to kill the uranium rider. Grand Canyon’s future hangs in the balance.

We need your help: I’m asking you to consider an emergency gift to the Center for Biological Diversity’s Grand Canyon Defense Fund and to then call and email your congressperson and say NO to any proposal that risks Grand Canyon to destructive, poisonous new uranium development.

Without new protections — which the Obama administration is working to enact — new uranium mines will ruin iconic wildlands, put endangered species like the California condor and humpback chub in danger and risk irreversible contamination of aquifers feeding Grand Canyon’s biologically-rich springs and creeks.

For several years the Center has campaigned tirelessly to stop uranium mining near this national park. Now, Rep. Flake’s rider could destroy the progress the nation’s made to protect this incredible, biologically rich and diverse area.

This fight is so critical that a Center donor has pledged to match every dollar donated to this campaign 1-to-1 to double your gift and double your impact. Please give generously to the Grand Canyon Defense Fund today. Our staff will put it right to work.

We can win this fight, but we can’t do it without your financial support and your action to contact Congress and tell them to vote NO on any proposal that puts this national park in danger. Please, forward this email to your friends and social networks to help create a groundswell of support in this critical moment.

Thank you for standing up for the Grand Canyon and all its species,