News / USA

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    FILE - Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred walks along the San Juan River, Aug. 11, 2015, in Montezuma Creek, Utah.
    FILE - Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred walks along the San Juan River, Aug. 11, 2015, in Montezuma Creek, Utah.
    Cecily Hilleary

    Celebrities and politicians have rallied around the city of Flint, Michigan, where thousands of children have been exposed to unsafe levels of lead in drinking water. But Native Americans say they have been facing an even more dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium - and received far less attention

    The Cold War arms race triggered a boom in uranium mining in the U.S. Between the 1940s and 1980s, uranium mining operations were carried out under a 19th century mining law that did not require them to clean up after themselves.

    FILE - Diné (Navajo) miners work at the Kerr McGee uranium mine at Cove on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, May 7, 1953. (AP Photo)
    FILE - Diné (Navajo) miners work at the Kerr McGee uranium mine at Cove on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, May 7, 1953. (AP Photo)

    When demand for uranium waned in the 1980s, companies simply walked away, leaving open pits and tunnels - and enormous amounts of radioactive waste. Today more than 15,000 abandoned uranium mines dot the U.S. West. Three-quarters of them are located on federal and tribal lands.

    Ray Manygoats grew up near Tuba City, Arizona, near a now-abandoned uranium mine. He is no stranger to the substance the Diné (Navajo) people call “the yellow monster.”

    Yellow mine waste water is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado, August 5, 2015.
    Yellow mine waste water is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado, August 5, 2015.

    “Yellow stuff was always everywhere,” Manygoats told the House Oversight Committee in 2007. “I saw liquids bubbling and tried to stay away from them…we would play in the yellowcake sand near the mill, jumping and rolling around in it.”

    Manygoats has suffered from a variety of health troubles, including growths on his eyes; his father has respiratory problems.

    Effects on drinking water

    “There is a really large and convincing and definitive literature that shows that for miners working underground, uranium mining is associated with a greatly increased risk of lung cancer,” said Douglas Brugge, Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine. “We also know that uranium, radium, radon and arsenic – which is frequently in the ore as well – are toxic. And we know from a fairly large number of studies that people who are drinking water contaminated with uranium have some adverse health effects, mostly kidney damage.”

    The uranium processing building at the Dawn Mining Co. mill site in Ford, Wash., is shown on Dec 16, 1999. The old building was built of wood frame and metal siding construction in the mid-50's to process uranium ore from the Midnite uranium mine on the S
    The uranium processing building at the Dawn Mining Co. mill site in Ford, Wash., is shown on Dec 16, 1999. The old building was built of wood frame and metal siding construction in the mid-50's to process uranium ore from the Midnite uranium mine on the S



    In 2014, University of New Mexico researchers sampled mine waste at one Arizona site and found uranium concentrations in spring water that was four times the federal drinking-water limit. Thirty percent of Diné lack access to public water and are forced to drink from unregulated wells, springs and livestock ponds, any of which could be contaminated.

    Mining ongoing

    Today, only a few companies continue to mine for uranium in the U.S. The most common method is in situ leaching: oxygenated water is injected into the earth, where it dissolves uranium. The solution is then brought back up to the surface and shipped off to processing plants.

    In situ mining has been going on since 1988 in northwestern Nebraska, not far from the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation that is home to the Oglala Lakota people.

    “We are 30 minutes away as the crow flies, fifteen minutes as the wind blows, from the mine site,” said Debra White Plume, executive director of Owe Aku (“Bring Back the Way”), a grassroots Lakota environmental group.

    White Plume and other concerned activists have gone up against one of the world’s largest mining corporations in an attempt to block it from opening up three new mines in the area.

    Ninety-eight wells have had to be closed on Pine Ridge because of unusually high rates of cancer, kidney disease and other health problems, said White Plume. She’s convinced that uranium is to blame, and she grows frustrated over suggestions that poor diet or smoking could be a factor.

    “Why do the innocent human beings at home have to prove that the big corporation is contaminating them? Why aren’t laws in place that say, ‘OK, if that corporation is going to come into our community, let them show us how they will not harm us, let them show us how they aren’t going to threaten everything we depend on for life: Water, food, air, land?’” she asked.

    The US Environmental Protection Agency says it has spent more than $100 million to identify areas at highest risk, part of a multi-year plan to address uranium contamination across the country. 

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora