Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015AZ544B

Characterization of Uranium and Arsenic in Unregulated Water Sources on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations

Institute: Arizona
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-03-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $10,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $20,000

Principal Investigators: Jani Ingram

Abstract: The overall goal of the proposed research is to determine levels of uranium and arsenic in unregulated water sources in the western region of the Navajo Reservation as well as parts of the Hopi Reservation in northeastern Arizona. The purpose of this study is to collect information that will assist tribal leaders in understanding the extent of contamination on their lands. Current there is minimal published information concerning uranium and arsenic in unregulated water sources on these Native American lands. However, preliminary work by our lab has shown elevated levels of uranium and arsenic 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 confirm the preliminary results as well as disseminating the information to the tribal leaders as well as the rest of the scientific community. 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. Recently, the Ingram lab has been approached by Hopi community members to investigate contamination of their water sources by arsenic. Thus, the Ingram research has begun investigating both uranium and arsenic from water sources on both the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. Uranium and arsenic are issues to the Navajo and Hopi as both geologically and anthropologically (through mining) affect their lands since they are both located on the Colorado Plateau. It is estimated that 30% of the Navajo people living on the Reservation rely on water hauled from unregulated wells for their consumption, household, and livestock needs. The proposed approach for this research will involve collection of new water samples as well as resampling wells previously investigated and characterizing these samples for uranium and arsenic. Additionally, general water chemistry will be investigated for samples with high levels of uranium and arsenic will also be characterized. 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 involve Navajo undergraduate students in the Ingram laboratory. The results of this work will be used to further the understanding of environmental uranium and arsenic present in the water sources on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. The outcome of this project will provide the information as to the extent of uranium and arsenic contamination on these Native American lands which is critical to the establishing the relationship between chronic exposure to environmental uranium and arsenic, and health effects.