CVNM Education Fund Spring 2018 Newsletter

Amplifying community voices is a key way to gain local attention for uranium legacy waste issues in Western New Mexico

Conservation Voters New Mexico Education Fund (CVNM Education Fund) co-hosted an environmental justice tour in March at the Churchrock Superfund site. The largest release of radioactive material in United States history occurred on July 16, 1979, on the Navajo Nation in Churchrock. More than 1,100 tons of uranium mining tailings and 100 million gallons of radioactive material emptied through a collapsed dam and into the Puerco River, running directly through numerous communities. We invited community advocates to share their stories with local decision-makers.

Community advocate Larry King, a member of the Red Water Pond Road Community Association and the Eastern Navajo Dine Against Uranium Mining, facilitated the two-hour long tour which included personal accounts from those who worked at the mine and the ongoing community struggle for environmental justice, including accountability and transparency from the uranium industry and the federal, state and local entities responsible for enforcing safeguards and regulations.

Community advocates interested in engaging and educating local decision-makers about uranium legacy waste issues in McKinley County had an opportunity to do so with State Representative D. Wonda Johnson in attendance, who shared her own story of how her communities face similar burdens because of uranium mining.

The dialogue continued at a public forum on March 23 at the Gallup Community Service Center with guest speakers Larry King and Anna Rondon of the New Mexico Social Justice and Equity Institute (NMSJEI). Larry and Anna highlighted the tremendous adverse impacts that uranium mining has had on communities. Around 60 community members attended and shared their concerns and suggestions on finding community solutions, such as strategically bridging tribal leadership with local, state and federal entities to address uranium issues.

Last year, the McKinley County Commission promised to convene a uranium blue-ribbon task force, but soon after backed away from this commitment. We continue to pressure the commission to keep their promise by amplifying community stories and educating them on uranium mining impacts in our communities. We support community members in efforts to ask that they formally recognize and establish a blue-ribbon task force and its mandate with formal commission action in the form of a resolution. Our northwestern New Mexico uranium-impacted communities deserve to be heard…and decision-makers need to listen.

By Talia Boyd, Western NM Program Director

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