FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation is expected to accept a $3 million grant to replace homes contaminated by uranium in past decades.
The Naabik’íyáti’ Committee passed legislation last week accepting the grant, according to a Navajo Nation press release Monday. The legislation now goes to the Navajo Nation Council for approval.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the grant to the tribe in July 2012.
The funding will allow the Navajo Nation Community Housing and Infrastructure Department to replace nine housing units that were demolished after contamination. The units are located across the reservation, according to Freida White, Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Program Supervisor.
Contaminated homes are usually found within a quarter-mile of an abandoned uranium mine, White said. Contamination also occurs when people use materials found at abandoned uranium mine sites to construct new homes.
The homes were demolished in years past because of elevated levels of uranium, which endangers people who are exposed to it.
The federal funds will be used to cover expenses such as labor force, schedules, materials, construction, design specifications, and community and technical assistance, according to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Elmer Begay.
Several delegates expressed concerns about how funds would be dispersed and utilized, and also why it had taken so long for the council to address the grant.
“This goes all the way back to 2012 and we’re finally approving it,” Delegate Nelson said.
The money is to be used by Oct. 13, which the delegates also were concerned about, suggesting that the time limit may force hastier, less efficient work.
If anything should go wrong during or after construction of the homes, the Navajo Nation is assuming liability, according to Delegate Dwight Witherspoon.
Jenny Kane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane