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Hopis penalized for safe drinking water violations

WINDOW ROCK

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says the Hopi Tribe has violated the Safe Drinking Water Act and must pay a penalty.

The act protects public drinking water supplies throughout the country.

According to the EPA, the tribe must pay a $3,800 penalty for not meeting the terms of a 2016 agreement. The agreement was to reduce arsenic levels in the tribe’s public drinking water at the Hopi Cultural Center, which is located in Second Mesa, Arizona.

The center supplies drinking water for 25 people living on the Hopi Reservation.

Arsenic, the EPA said, a known carcinogen, is a naturally occurring mineral found throughout the U.S. and is found in groundwater. Drinking high levels of arsenic over many years can increase the chance of lung, bladder, and skin cancers, as well heart disease, diabetes, and neurological damage.

The tribe agreed to reduce the levels of arsenic from their drinking water at the center. The EPA said the Hopis failed when they did not install a water treatment system, which would help reduce the levels of arsenic to below 10 micrograms per liter.

In every quarterly test in 2018, the system failed to meet the requirements of the act, resulting in running an average of 13 micrograms per liter.

The tribe told EPA it would complete an arsenic treatment system by early 2020.

In October, the Dilcon Community School Inc. in Dilkon, Arizona, reported levels of arsenic in its water system higher than normal when they went above 10 micrograms per liter.

The school sent out a letter to parents stating they violated the safe drinking water standard.

“Although this is not an emergency, as our customer, you have a right to know what happened,” stated the letter, signed by Facilities Manager Jasper Tunney.

Tunney stated the samples were collected from three wells and tested. The test showed the levels of arsenic were at 14 micrograms per liter, exceeding the maximum contaminant level.

Filters that treat the water were changed and levels of the carcinogen dropped below 10 micrograms per liter.

The Hopi Tribe has been working on a water pipeline project with the EPA and Hopi Healthcare Center. Called the Hopi Arsenic Mitigation Project, or HAMP, officials hope to complete by the end of 2023.



About The Author

Donovan Quintero

"Dii, Diné bi Naaltsoos wolyéhíígíí, ninaaltsoos át'é. Nihi cheii dóó nihi másání ádaaní: Nihi Diné Bizaad bił ninhi't'eelyá áádóó t'áá háadida nihizaad nihił ch'aawóle'lágo. Nihi bee haz'áanii at'é, nihisin at'é, nihi hózhǫ́ǫ́jí at'é, nihi 'ach'ą́ą́h naagééh at'é. Dilkǫǫho saad bee yájíłti', k'ídahoneezláo saad bee yájíłti', ą́ą́ chánahgo saad bee yájíłti', diits'a'go saad bee yájíłti', nabik'íyájíłti' baa yájíłti', bich'į' yájíłti', hach'į' yándaałti', diné k'ehgo bik'izhdiitįįh. This is the belief I do my best to follow when I am writing Diné-related stories and photographing our events, games and news. Ahxéhee', shik'éí dóó shidine'é." - Donovan Quintero is an award-winning Diné journalist, who is based in Window Rock, Arizona. He can be contacted at dq@navajotimes.com.