BOX SPRINGS, Ariz. - The non-governmental organization Forgotten People held a meeting at Box Springs on Nov. 7 to discuss concerns related to the lack of potable drinking water in nearby communities.
Approximately 40 people, including community members, Navajo Nation officials and members of the Hada'asidi (The Vigilant Ones) attended.
Discussions were held with those impacted by the former Bennett Freeze. Of great concern was the lack of potable water, which has caused residents to resort to drinking arsenic and uranium contaminated water from unregulated water sources in an area with more than 100 abandoned uranium mines. Testimonies described how many people have died and how those who remain are being diagnosed with cancer and kidney failure and living in dilapidated homes.
The people asked when President Shirley would declare a State of Emergency/Public Health Emergency in Black Falls/Box Springs/Grand Falls and provide infrastructure and potable drinking water for those community members. This strategy is the initial phase in a process of moving toward construction of homes for people who have been denied the ability to build new homes or repair their homes.
The Forgotten People provided clear information about their work mobilizing the people in the Black Falls/Box Springs Canyon and Grand Falls vicinity. These people allege that they have had minimal or no Navajo governmental services, even though the Freeze was officially lifted on May 8 by President Obama.
Community members reminded Patrick Sandoval, Chief of Staff for the Office of the President and Vice President that they need the immediate participation of elected officials, their staffs and those responsible for the delivery of direct governmental services. The people made it clear that they felt neglected.
Everyone applauded when Najam Turiq, Branch Director of the Department of Water Resources told the people the first load of safe drinking water from an EPA-funded water truck would deliver safe drinking water to the area within the next 90-120 days. The people wondered if the President's office will support a pilot project started in Black Falls that would provide 100 kitchen sinks and gravity fed tanks before the EPA water trucks arrive so safe drinking water is not put into contaminated barrels.
The people made it clear that this was just the beginning of their efforts to implement and replicate sustainable programs to provide safe drinking water to water haulers across the Navajo Nation and habitable dwellings for those affected by the Freeze.
Sandoval assured the people that the President's office would help and promised that the Executive Staff would attend the next meeting.
The next meeting will be held in Box Springs on Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. at Larry and Rolanda Tohannie's residence.
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