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74 Trinity Avenue
Gouverneur, NY, 13642
United States

Local News

Water, water everywhere, but not for tribe to drink

Dan McClelland

by Sandy Wyman
While no doubt, this is a catchy headline, however it is not one to make you smile but to make you think.
I do not believe that there are many spots in the North Country that clean drinking water is in short supply, we can always go to a store and buy 24 bottles packaged nicely if the case may be.
How would you like to face every day with the knowledge that your drinking supply of a life-sustaining beverage contains uranium and is not fit for human consumption?
And while we are very aware of the condition of the Flint, Michigan water woes on a huge scale, there has been progress on trying to fix and maintain the need to supply clean water to residents requiring assistance with a lead problem that is of utmost importance to be contained.
Lead is very dangerous and that is a fact, however there is another source of a life-altering chemical that rate very high on the list of cancer causing agents and that is uranium!
This reporter was contacted earlier by Gouverneur Librarian Linda Adams to perhaps do an interview with a caring 10 year-old who learned of the plight of the Navajo Native Americans.
The insight shown by Jaden Rodriquez of Gouverneur has led this youngster on the path of trying to find a way to be able to send funds to buy safe and clean water in containers for those in need.
Jaden is a native of Costa Rica and has been in the United States since he was two years old and is absolutely stricken by the fact that children like him do not have safe water to drink.
While you might think that the Navajo population in the affected area should just go to a store, the sad fact is that most of the time, it is almost impossible to do so due to its very remote location.
Information received is that over 40 percent of the Navajo Tribe water on the reservation has been tested and found to exceed US EPA human drinking water standards for uranium and/or other contaminants and the Navajo Nation policy is that livestock-use-only wells are not to be used for human drinking water.
Most of the residents have to travel upwards of two hours and many even in today’s world do not have running water in their homes.
If water is brought in through charitable sources, most of the time, one gallon of potable water is allowed per day per family. That’ right…one gallon!
Each and every time that a tank load of precious drinking water is transported, it costs over $1,000.
How did this tragedy come about? It has been a series of events dating back to the 1940s.
The history of uranium mining on Navajo land is forever intertwined with the history of the military complex.
The mining of the toxic mineral originated when the United States decided that it was time to cut its dependence on imported uranium. So for the next 40 plus years until the late 1980’s some four million tons of ore was extracted from the Navajo territory with most of it fueling the Cold war arms race.
Never once in that time period was the Navajo people warned or told about the danger of high-level contamination.
Most of the Native Americans spoke very little English during the early mining operations or understood language pertaining to the problems that would and now always present the threat of danger on the highest level.
Cut to the present time. According to the EPA, more than 500 of the 1,300 existing abandoned mines show levels of extreme contamination reaching over 4,000 picocuries per liter.
The EPA limit for safe drinking water is 20 picocuries per liter!
Jaden and fellow supporter Sylvia French have secured a starting point for a donation canister at Dashnaw’s Pizzeria on East Main.
All funds raised are directly deposited in a reserved fund to be sent to the proper authorities for help in supplying safe drinking water for the Navajo tribe.