First it was the National Institutes of Health, and now awareness of the scourge of uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation Reservation has made its way to The New York Times.
The venerable newspaper, following in the footsteps of a recent article in the NIH journal Environmental Health Perspectives, has profiled the woes of Navajo people in a remote village who are being forced to leave for the umpteenth time while contaminated soil is hauled away. This time, though, they may not be able to come back.
“The uranium pollution is so bad that it is unsafe for people to live here long term, environmental officials say,” The New York Times reported in a February 19 article. “Although the uranium mines that once pocked the hillsides were shut down decades ago, mounds of toxic waste are still piled atop the dirt, raising concerns about radioactive dust and runoff.”
The Times gives the example of Bertha Nez and fellow residents of the Red Water Pond Road community, who have already been displaced before for temporary cleanup and now may have to leave for good.
“Although their village represents only a small sliver of the larger Navajo nation, home to nearly 300,000 people, they are bearing the brunt of the environmental problems,” the Times said.
Energy companies and federal agencies spent $17 million and $100 million respectively cleaning up between 2008 and 2012, The New York Times said. But abandoned mines, with their attendant contamination, continue to be found, and cleanup plans’ approval alone could take years even before cleanup begins, because of the environmental-impact studies necessary before they can be implemented, the newspaper said.
Most of this is nothing new to Indian country, but the Times outlines the problem both concisely and in depth. However, not much seems to have changed since a 2012 article in the newspaper that also highlighted the problem of uranium contamination on the reservation.
Read Amid Toxic Waste, a Navajo Village Could Lose Its Land in The New York Times from February 20, 2014, and then its 2012 story Uranium Mines Dot Navajo Land, Neglected and Still Perilous.