In McKinley and Cibola counties, communities are still grappling with the impacts of uranium mining that took place decades ago. The fact is, hundreds of abandoned uranium mining wastes and tailings piles still await cleanup, due to scarce federal superfund cleanup funding. As ongoing community concerns about the need for extensive remediation grows, so has the debilitating realization that there is an absence of health studies in contaminated communities.
That’s why CVNM Education Fund has been working with the community and organizational partners like the Multicultural Alliance for A Safe Environment and McKinley Place Matters to bring attention to the health impacts of mining on families across Western New Mexico. In 2014, we forged a partnership to implement a community health impact assessment (HIA) process to shine light on the health issues that families in the Grants Mining District are living with every day. The HIA has spurred community conversations about local policy solutions – like a McKinley County-wide moratorium to allow the county to assess impacts uranium mining might have on the county.
The HIA process involved training and interviewing impacted community members in communities like Red Water Pond that have legacy uranium waste sites located directly in their community. The results of the HIA process found that families living around and near legacy waste sites reported higher incidences of diseases, like kidney disease, respiratory problems and cancer.
Now, the community is asking the McKinley County Commission to support a formal Blue Ribbon Uranium Task Force. The McKinley County Blue Ribbon Uranium Task Force will gather data on the impacts of historic uranium production and proposed uranium activities that has affected McKinley County communities’ health, groundwater, watersheds, and economy. The Task Force will also conduct public hearings whereby citizens of the county will have an opportunity to provide their personal stories. Their personal stories and the data gathered will be interwoven to create a report with policy recommendations to the McKinley County Commission.
Join us at the McKinley County Commission meeting on Tuesday, July 30 at 9 a.m. to show your support for the local community to take action to better understand impacts of uranium mining and prevent them in the future!