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Monday, July 22, 2024

EPA opens Flagstaff office with focus on Navajo abandoned uranium mines

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Navajo Nation partners celebrated the opening of EPA’s new Flagstaff Field Office with a ribbon-cutting, tour, and a demonstration of equipment for abandoned uranium mine work on July 25.

EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman joined Steven Etsitty, Executive Director of Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Region 6 Administrator Earthea Nance, and Karen Peters, Director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“EPA’s new office will enhance communication and engagement with Navajo Nation leadership, Chapter leadership, tribally owned businesses, and Navajo residents impacted by abandoned uranium mines,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Our consistent presence in Flagstaff will also serve as a critical hub for staff conducting fieldwork to protect all of the Northern Arizona tribal and non-tribal communities we serve to protect.”

“I warmly welcome the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as they open their new Flagstaff Field Office in Arizona,” said Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Director Karen Peters.

“On behalf of President Nygren and his administration, I welcome you to Navajoland or Dinetah. We stand next to one of our holiest and most sacred mountains, the San Francisco Peaks, and seek blessings from our holy people over today’s events and this new USEPA field office. Going forward, we seek blessings on each of us so we may meet the challenges in our work to heal Mother Earth and protect our communities and people from pollution and contaminants,” said Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency Executive Director Stephen Etsitty. “Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency continues to work alongside USEPA and other federal agencies, our state neighbors, our relatives from other tribes, and non-governmental organizations to clean up the legacy of Uranium mining and processing; and on all environmental regulatory actions.”

The Flagstaff Office opening is the realization of EPA commitments in its Ten-Year Plan (2020-2029), including initiating the cleanup of 110 mines by 2030. The Flagstaff Office will significantly strengthen the EPA’s understanding of community concerns, interests, and Navajo lifeways and the agency’s ability to work with the Navajo Nation government, including on abandoned uranium mine cleanup.

Nearly 30 million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands under leases with the Navajo Nation from 1944 to 1986. Today the mines are closed, but a legacy of uranium contamination remains, including over 500 abandoned uranium mines and homes and water sources with elevated radiation levels. Potential health effects include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, bone cancer, and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water.

Visit EPA’s Health Effects of Uranium webpage to learn more about the health effects of uranium and how you can avoid contact with it.

Visit EPA’s Abandoned Mines Cleanup webpage for background, settlements, sites, and priority mines.

Visit EPA’s Navajo Nation: Cleaning Up Abandoned Uranium Mines webpage for more information on EPA’s cleanup efforts.

Community members who want more information can contact EPA Region 9 Customer Service toll-free at 866-372-9378.

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region.

See more local news on Green Living.

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