Researchers, representatives of federal agencies will be on hand

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FARMINGTON — A conference geared toward informing communities on the Navajo Nation about uranium contamination and research associated with the mineral will take place on Saturday in Shiprock.

Co-organizer Tommy Rock said the intent is to provide an opportunity for community members and researchers to create dialogue about the impact of uranium and to learn about work researchers are completing that address the environment and health.

Topics at the conference will include environmental contamination, uranium exposure, health studies and traditional knowledge.

Organizers have invited researchers from the University of New Mexico, the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Diné College to attend and discuss their work

Also invited to attend are representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Margot Perez-Sullivan, spokeswoman for EPA Region 9, said the agency plans to send a representative to the event.

"The conference provides an opportunity for U.S. EPA to get valuable input from communities and respond to questions regarding the agency's work to assess and cleanup abandoned uranium mines," Perez-Sullivan stated in an email.

Organizers wanted to include an educational aspect for young people so there are sessions geared toward environmental awareness and teaching young people about how media, such as filmmaking, can increase understanding of social issues.

As a member of the Navajo Nation and a research scientist studying the effects of uranium mining, Rock said it is important for Native researchers to talk to young people because it encourages them to pursue careers in science.

Co-organizer Janene Yazzie worked with Rock to address uranium contamination in the drinking water in Sanders, Arizona, including training residents to collect and test water samples.

They are collaborating to bring Saturday's conference to the Northern Agency. Similar conferences will be on March 31 in Sanders, on April 14 in Cameron and on April 28 in Kayenta, all in Arizona.

Yazzie said the education provided by the series is important because people need to know and understand the ramification left by uranium and the work underway to address concerns.

The conference will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Shiprock Youth Center in Shiprock.

For more information about the conference, contact Tommy Rock at rockt92@gmail.com.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or nsmith@daily-times.com.

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