Walk and run calls attention to mine spill

Noel Lyn Smith

FARMINGTON — For the second year, participants in a walk and run planned for Saturday will remember and call attention to the Gold King Mine spill's impact on local agriculture and communities.

The confluence of the Animas and San Juan rivers is pictured Aug. 8, 2015, in Farmington in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine spill. A run and walk designed to bring attention to the effects of the spill is planned this weekend between Hogback and Shiprock.

The Gold King Mine Spill Resilience Run and Walk II will start at 6:30 a.m. with a sunrise ceremony at mile marker 31 on U.S. Highway 64 in Hogback.

After the ceremony, the walk and run will begin at that location, then proceed along the westbound lane for approximately 8 miles, ending at Nizhoni Park in Shiprock.

A river blessing will take place at the park after the run and walk, followed by presentations about research projects that a number of colleges and universities are conducting that focus on the San Juan River, which runs through the Northern Agency.

Those studies are also examining the health impacts from the August 2015 spill, which released more than 3 million gallons of toxic heavy metals into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

Karilyn Haozous, who grew up in Shiprock and is an academic adviser at New Mexico Highlands University’s School of Social Work, said the idea for organizing the presentations arose out of a July 18 discussion between the colleges, universities and Shiprock Chapter President Duane "Chili" Yazzie.

A group of people watch as the discolored Animas River flows through Berg Park in Farmington on Aug. 8, 2015, in the aftermath of the Gold King Mine spill.

Haozous said the walk and run is open to the public.

"Last year, people joined in wherever they wanted to," she said, adding the event continues the focus on residents and communities impacted by the mine spill.

Part of the advocacy effort includes having petitions available during the gathering at Nizhoni Park for participants to sign, Haozous said. The petitions call for compensation for farmers and for reforming the General Mining Act of 1872, a federal law that regulates mining activities on federal public lands.

Shiprock Chapter president Duane "Chili" Yazzie said the event also serves as a reminder of the importance of the river and the need to keep it clean.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.