posted on Jun, 4 2009 @ 12:34 PM
A few of you are familiar with the story of the water haulers how 60,000-70,000 Americans, Navajo people. have no access to safe drinking water and
some have to drive hours to fill barrels to take home... so much for the American dream right
well there was hope and the EPA did spend some money on the problem... guess what happened???
By Kathy Helms
BLACK FALLS, Ariz. — Residents couldn’t have been happier when, in February, a ribbon cutting was held to officially open the Black Falls Church
watering point. Ideally, it meant water haulers wouldn’t have to travel long distances anymore to fill their barrels with safe drinking water.
For people such as Nina Tohannie, it meant that her brother Ronald wouldn’t be sending her down into Dry Spring to scrub the walls of the well with
chlorine and pull out the bones and carcasses of dead animals.
“When it’s like that, you can smell it,” Ronald said. “We’d have to clean out the well and siphon all that water out with a water pump. Then
somebody has to crawl down in there and get what’s left. I can’t get it with the water pump. It’s really thick. So we have to take a bucket down
there with a rope on it.
“The hole is about 2 feet by 2 feet. Somebody kind of skinny has to go down there. You have to use a ladle or something to clean out the bottom and
put it in the bucket, and then we have to pull it up and dump it out. Then we wash it with chlorine and do the same thing, load it up and dump it
Then it clears up,” he said.
In addition to animal carcasses, tests by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate the water
also has traces of uranium and arsenic, though presently not above safe drinking water standards. Box Spring, Badger Spring, Tohatchi Spring and
Paddock Well — all used by area residents — are above safe standards for uranium and/or arsenic.
Unfortunately, getting the new watering point up and running continuously has been a problem, according to Ronald, who hauls water twice a day, four
days a week, for four Black Falls families. When the system is down the water has to be brought in from nearby towns.
“It’s hard to get around on the dirt roads. There’s no grading.
It’s really terrible. It does a lot of damage to the suspensions on our trucks. I’m just using two 55-gallon barrels at a time. I can’t use a
bigger one because it will do a lot of damage to my truck,” Ronald said.
George Kee of Black Falls also helps out, hauling water from Tuba City, Flagstaff or Leupp. “We’re at about the center from each direction,” he
Getting from Tuba City to Black Falls is a chore. If Kee takes the dirt road shortcut from Cameron, “it takes almost 3 1/2 hours to get here to the
Black Falls area. Around the pavement by Wupatki, across the wash, it takes about 2 1/2 hours, but that’s more mileage than to come down the valley.
It’s really hard on the vehicles. The tires and springs are falling apart.”
Sometimes weather conditions and drifting sand make taking the shortcut impossible, which is why the Black Falls Church water point in upper Black
Falls was so attractive to lower Black Falls residents.
EPA paid $830,000 to extend the waterline from Tolani Lake, according to Clancy Tenley. The water is provided by Navajo Tribal Utility Authority and
was tested by Indian Health Service. “It passed all of the EPA requirements for safe water,” he said.
But Ronald noticed recently that when the watering point was working, “the water was coming out really weak. It had a milky color to it, plus it
smelled. If you set it out in the bucket for like a day, it would turn yellowish. I don’t know why. What I think is there is a crack in the line
where it’s sucking up the dirt.”
In addition to low water pressure, the card machine was not working properly and kept rejecting the prepaid debit cards, he said. On May 22, the
system was not working at all.
NTUA Deputy General Manager Rex Kontz said the watering point feeds off NTUA’s system but is operated by one of the local chapters. “It’s not an
NTUA-operated watering point. It was constructed by Indian Health Service, and my understanding is it’s still under warranty and they’ve had
several technical problems with it. They have been responding and trying to correct all the items.
“There was a water break in the main system. Once the water break was fixed, the pressure problem should have been alleviated. I’m not sure what
the issue is with the power being off.”
When told there was a yellow tag on the meter on May 22, he said, “A yellow tag means they (the chapter) haven’t paid their bill and it’s been
disconnected. That’s a disconnect tag.”
Regarding the card reader, Kontz said it is older technology, where the card inserts into a slot. “You get sand and moisture into the card readers
and those cause problems.
The new generation is optical. There’s a little computer chip in the card and they just hold it up to an optical scanner.
There’s no place to actually put the card into the system. It’s all enclosed.”
A vendor that works with Indian Health Service installs the new generation readers, he said. “We have an EPA grant that we’re trying to get to
install some watering points, and it will have the new technology. I’m open to the community leaders if they want to talk about the possibility of
NTUA setting up a watering point that has an optical reader.
“Some chapters like to be independent. They want to try to earn some money off of the water sales. They like to try to own those themselves. I
don’t recall what the situation was with Black Falls.”
A few cents per barrel
Kontz said NTUA charges around $3 per 1,000 gallons of water. “It’s not much. If they’re hauling 50-gallon drums, you’re talking about almost
20 fill-ups for about $3 or $3.65 — something like that — just a few cents per barrel.”
NTUA water from Tuba City runs $8 for four 55-gallon barrels, or $2 a barrel, Kee said. If the water comes from Leupp Chapter, it’s 25 cents a
gallon, according to Ronald.
Katherine Peshlakai, 87, said she used to pay a man from Tuba City to bring water for their livestock during summer drought. He charged her $500 to
haul 2,000 gallons. “He hauled maybe three times,” she said.
Don Yellowman, president of The Forgotten People, a non-profit organization, said the big objective of the Black Falls water project that is providing
gravity-fed water tanks and sinks to residents drinking uranium-contaminated water “is, instead of ignoring that population, addressing the issue of
they need water too, and how do we come to grips with people living away from the piped water line having accessibility to water.
“You still have a big population that doesn’t live near the road or the waterline; they still live out in the boonies. Those folks, they’re not
on the radar to get piped water.”
Shirley Parker lives near the Black Falls Church watering point and just a short distance from the new water line. “In her case she was told that if
you want water, there’s a waterline coming through your neighborhood shortly, therefore, you’re eligible to get water but you need to have your
facilities ready to go so you can be connected.
Otherwise, you may have to wait 10 years,” Yellowman said.
Because she did not have a bathroom addition, “she just allowed them to go ahead and install the bathtub and a kitchen sink and the water heater in
the bedroom. She said if that’s what it takes for me to get water, go ahead and put it in the bedroom. She did all that in a mad rush to get it all
done, and to this day no meter has been installed. That was about a year ago.”
Marsha Monestersky, program manager, said they plan to seek another EPA Environmental Justice grant to help with water and sanitation issues. They
also are seeking a company might want to donate a three-quarter-ton truck for water hauling.
[edit on 4-6-2009 by DaddyBare]