Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011AZ431B

Characterization of Chelating Agents in Non-regulated Water Sources on Navajo Lands

Institute: Arizona
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $10,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $23,731

Principal Investigators: Jani Ingram

Abstract: The overall goal of the proposed research is to determine chelating agents present in unregulated water sources in the southwestern region of the Navajo Reservation. The purpose of these studies is to collect information that will lead to an understanding of the specific uranium species present in these waters in order to understand their bioavailability and transport in the environment. Preliminary work by our lab has shown elevated levels of uranium in some of the unregulated water sources as well as variations in the basic water chemistry, even for wells in close proximity. An important next step in this research is to determine the chemical species of uranium present as it is the specific uranium species that dictates bioavailability. The long-term research objective in the Ingram laboratory is to explore the relationship between health issues facing the Navajo Nation and chronic exposure to environmental uranium. Uranium is an issue to the Navajo as over half of the uranium deposits in the United States are thought to be located in the Colorado Plateau region that includes the Navajo Lands. Mine sites in the Cameron, Arizona area (southwestern area of the Navajo Reservation) are located close to the groundwater, making this an area of particular concern with regards to environmental uranium exposure. Many homes on Navajo Lands have no electricity or running water. It is estimated that 30-40% of the people living there rely on water hauled from unregulated wells for their consumption, household, and livestock needs. A study by the Army Corps of Engineers, conducted in the late 1990�s, indicates that a number of these wells have uranium concentrations exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency�s drinking water standards. The proposed approach for this research will involve collection of new water samples from wells near Cameron and Leupp Arizona and characterize these samples for chelating agents. Both inorganic anionic species as well as organic acid and amine compounds will be investigated. Analytical methodology for these analyses has been utilized by the Ingram laboratory for past projects which will aide in the work proposed here. The project will be the focus of a master�s level student in the Ingram laboratory. We anticipate recruiting an undergraduate student to also work on the project. The results of this work will be used to further the understanding of environmental uranium present in the water sources on the Navajo Reservation. The outcome of this project will provide the basis for determining the bioavailability of uranium species which is critical to the establishing the relationship between chronic exposure to environmental uranium and health effects.