The team is led by Drs. Karletta Chief and Paloma Beamer of the UA SRP. Karletta Chief is a Navajo hydrologist, UA Cooperative Extension specialist, and UA SRP Community Engagement Core Leader; while Dr. Paloma Beamer is an SRP Collaborator and Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the UA’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Co-investigators include Dr. Jani Ingram (Navajo chemist) and Dr. Manley Begay (Navajo Indigenous Studies) from NAU, and Dr. Nicolette Teufel-Shone (Health Promotion Sciences) and Dr. Dean Billheimer (Biostatistics) from the UA’s Zuckerman College of Public Health. Participating Navajo students and interns will be involved in sampling activities managed through the UA, NAU, Diné College, and the BIA Native American Water Corps.
The project is focused on the communities of Upper Fruitland and Shiprock in New Mexico, in addition to the community of Aneth, Utah. Researchers aim to: 1) determine differences in exposures between these three Navajo communities located downstream of the Gold King Mine spill; 2) assess temporal and spatial changes in the sediment, agricultural soil, river water, and well water in these three communities; and 3) determine the association between the communities’ perception of risk and actual risks from the Gold King Mine spill.
The study has recently received approval from the Navajo Nation Human Research Review Board. Project leaders Chief and Beamer are working in partnership with the Navajo Community Health Representatives Program and are coordinating their sampling efforts with the Navajo Environmental Protection Agency, the Navajo Division of Natural Resources, and Navajo Tribal Utility Authority.
This important study is expected to address tribal questions regarding the impacts of the Gold King Mine Spill on their communities.