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About the Program

The Navajo Nation Superfund Program (“NNSP”) is one of four programs within the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (“NNEPA”) Waste Regulatory and Compliance Department.  The NNSP is headed by an Environmental Program Supervisor who reports to the Waste Regulatory and Compliance Department Manager and the Executive Director of NNEPA.

The NNSP partners with the U.S. EPA to implement the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), also known as the Superfund Law, on the Navajo Nation.  The NNSP also is responsible for implementing the Navajo Nation CERCLA, 4 N.N.C. §§ 2101-2805, a statute enacted by the Navajo Nation Council in 2008. 

The NNCERCLA authorizes NNEPA, acting through the NNSP, to gather information on releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, to respond to such releases, and to require responsible parties to conduct and pay for cleanup of such releases, including at abandoned sites.  The NNCERCLA also provides for voluntary cleanup of contaminated sites to encourage reuse of such sites.  A copy of the NNCERCLA is provided under the “Documents” tab. [Karl – link to tab?]

Additional information regarding the NNSP may be found under the following tabs:

Superfund Sites

Brownfields Sites

Voluntary Cleanup

Emergency Response

Superfund Documents "Public Records"




Navajo Superfund Program White Paper
April 2000

I. Purpose

The government-to-government relationship between U. S. Environmental Protection Agency Region IX (US EPA) and the Navajo Nation (NN) has not been fulfilled. The Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (NNEPA) needs a negotiated MOU and AUM Work Plan, in order for US EPA to continue the AUM studies on the Navajo Nation.

II. Background

NNEPA believes the original intent of the AUM Project was to follow the joint Congressional Hearing recommendations as outlined below:On November 04, 1993, a joint congressional committee hearing was held on “Uranium waste on the Navajo Reservation”. During this hearing, Ms. Sadie Hoskie, NNEPA Director and advisor to then-President Peterson Zah, presented the following recommendations to address the AUM concerns:

A – Sites which have already proven eligible for the National Priorities List (NPL) through site inspections, and for which potentially responsible parties exist, should be placed on the NPL as quickly as possible.

B – Sites that are not currently under consideration for the NPL and were scored under the old Hazard Ranking System (HRS) should be re-scored.

C – The US EPA, Department of Energy (DOE) and Office of Surface Mining (OSM) should fund a series of Navajo Nation led studies, to begin addressing the complex issues related to AUM sites, so a complete clean-up of the sites is evaluated: a) health effects studies on nearby residents in cooperation with the Navajo Uranium Mine Workers Office; b) water quality studies in mining areas to determine and differentiate mining impacts from naturally-occurring hazards, and c) radon emissions studies from mine wastes.

On August 16, 1995, the US EPA distributed a brief outline for their AUM project, “US EPA Preliminary Outline of Uranium Mine Protocols”. The original project focused on the King Tutt Mesa (KTM) area, for gathering information to determine if this site merits listing on the federal National Priorities List (NPL).

The purpose of this paper is re-focus the project on the KTM area with the objective of making NPL listing decision. In order to gather the information needed for this decision, the current data gathering should target mining-impacted human drinking water sources, mining-impacted watersheds and alternate drinking water sources.

III. Problems & Solutions

A. Problem 1 – The Working Relationship
NNEPA’s experience with US EPA Region IX staff has not followed the Congressional testimony recommendations. The US EPA did not consult with the NNEPA and did not coordinate their water sampling activities with NNEPA and affected Tribal programs. The proposed sampling locations were not reviewed for appropriateness for determining uranium contamination of local domestic water sources and federal clean-up eligibility purposes. The Field Sampling Plan discussing the sampling methods and location criteria was not made available for review and comment.

Solution 1 – Develop a joint SOW partnership that will ensure the KTM Integrated Assessment (KTM IA) protocol for evaluating uranium mining areas is developed with tribal input meeting unique Navajo tribal and public needs.

B. Problem 2 – Water Sampling
The US EPA failure to consult with NNEPA, NN Division of Natural Resources, and Region IX Water Programs, such as the Region IX Public Water Project Officer, on the public water sampling activities. The NNEPA Public Water Systems Supervision Program (PWSS) was not consulted when the public water systems at various chapter houses were sampled. The department head of NN Water Development was not consulted prior to the initiation of water sampling activities.

The drinking water systems of the Navajo Nation are operated by various entities including BIA, IHS, NTUA, and Chapter governments. The US EPA staff failed to consult with these entities, who might be called upon to provide alternate drinking water sources for the local people.

Solution 2 – The establishment of ad hoc committee to review these documents and develop a timeline to review these documents. The committee could provide sampling area suggestions and determine the liability faced by the NN and the response/action the tribal water authorities should make.

C. Problem 3 – Data Interpretation to Communities
A Scope of Work and an independent public relations contract were initiated without consulting NNEPA and other tribal offices. In this public education effort, US EPA made public statements regarding elevated levels of contaminants in some of the water samples. Local repercussions from these statements or disclosures could become a tribal liability and a legal issue for NNEPA. The Navajo people should not be led to believe that their health is at risk without a thorough investigation and confirmation by health professionals.

Solution 3 – The Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR) should be requested to perform a health study and to advise the ad hoc committee. It would be reasonable to expect ATSDR staff make health recommendations and determine the risk at these sites.

D. Problem 4 – King Tutt Mesa Integrated Assessment (IA)
From 1942 to 1967, uranium mining took place in the KTM area of the Red Valley Chapter, Navajo Nation. The KTM site is a 6 square mile area centered on the Arizona – New Mexico border, approximately 19 miles south of the Four Corners area. In 1994, US EPA started collecting IA data to determine if the AUMs and mining-related features posed a health risk to the residents and to identify areas/features that needed to be addressed to reduce these risks. The risk was determined by measuring the soil and air for radiation, and sampling the soil, sediments and water for toxic metals and radionuclides. The original project briefing (8/16/95) indicated that the risk would be based on land use; which apparently, has not been done. It is important that risk be based on land use due to Navajo Nation unique subsistence dependency on local produce and livestock

Solution 4 – Once the joint Scope of Work is completed, both parties should revisit the KTM IA to incorporate parts of the NSP KTM summary into the final KTM IA and to update the groundwater information, provide a water quality summary and add ATSDR’s health and risk determinations.

IV Implementation

1. All US EPA sampling activities should cease until an MOU, that includes a joint Scope of Work (SOW), is signed by NNEPA and US EPA. Done.

2. NNEPA will establish an ad hoc committee of affected Navajo Nation Divisions Departments and Agencies to oversee and coordinate the AUM activities. This committee will evaluate and approve future sampling, MOU, a joint SOW, quarterly status reports, and any related or relevant documents. Completed.

3. Any future presentations to the US Congress regarding status reports or funding requests will be a joint effort with the NNEPA Executive Director and US EPA. On-going.

4. In 2000, the US EPA must provide an initial status report to NNEPA that can be used to track progress and estimate future areas of study. Following a 30-day review of this status report, NNEPA will submit comments and recommendations to US EPA and the ad hoc committee. Completed.

5. For coordination and SOW development purposes, the US EPA should provide a timeline of their current and future activities. The current NNEPA timeline is attached to this document. These two timelines can provide the structure for a joint SOW. Draft completed.

6. NSP Preliminary Assessment/Site Inspection (PA/SI) staff will submit a request for increased PA/SI FY 2001 funding for two full-time Environmental Specialists, who are needed for AUM project field and office tasks. Unmet need.

7. The US EPA shall contact and involve the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) for the purpose of providing a health evaluation or assessment, as necessary, to determine the effects of mining on the health of KTM area residents. On-going data interpretation study.


Navajo Nation EPA
Navajo Nation Government
US EPA Superfund
US EPA Region 6 (includes NM)
US EPA Superfund Region 8 (includes UT)
US EPA Region 9 (includes AZ)

Contact Us

Dariel Yazzie
Environmental Program Supervisor
NNEPA Superfund
PO Box 2946
Window Rock, AZ 86511
Phone No: (928)871-7325
Fax No: (928)871-7333

Report Illegal Dumping

Report illegal dumping on Navajo Nation Land. Call the Navajo Resource Conservation and Recovery Program at this toll-free number: 1(888)-643-7692