UA Researchers to Study Environmental Effects on Navajo Lands a Year After Gold King Mine Spill

(UA College of Public Health) -- The University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and UA Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science received a $434,000 grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to investigate the effects of the Gold King Mine spill on Navajo lands.

A cross-disciplinary team of researchers from the University of Arizona are investigating short-term exposure in Navajo communities after the Gold King Mine toxic spill last year. The important study is expected to address tribal questions regarding the impact of the environmental disaster on their communities.

Approximately 3 million gallons of acid water and heavy metals from the Gold King Mine poured into Colorado’s Animas River on Aug. 5, 2015. The water flowed into the San Juan River, the primary source of irrigation for Navajo Nation farmers. The spill was caused accidentally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) while trying to prevent leakage of toxic materials.

Los Angeles Times article called it one of the biggest environmental disasters in the region, occurring in the middle of growing season for hay and alfalfa. One of the largest Navajo chapters voted to keep their gates closed for at least a year to avoid contaminating the soil and to protect the seeds they have held in their families for generations. Read more