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Navajo Farmers Frustrated By Lack Of River Data

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Marisa Demarco / KUNM
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A mural near the San Juan River in Shiprock, N.M.

UPDATE, Friday, Aug. 14, 5 p.m.: The EPA says testing results from the Navajo Nation should be released on Saturday.   

SHIPROCK, N.M.—Farmers near the San Juan are frustrated by the lack of data from the Environmental Protection Agency after pollutants were released from the Gold King Mine more than a week ago. 

Toxins traveling through the Animas flowed into New Mexico’s San Juan, but it’s not yet known exactly what’s in the river on the Navajo Nation or at what concentrations. That’s at the root of a lot of worry for farmers in Shiprock, who fear the worst for their crops.

Shiprock Chapter Farm Board Representative Joe Ben Jr. said it’s been chaotic since the spill in Colorado, in part because there are no testing results for the river once it crosses onto the reservation.

"For this we are waiting and waiting and waiting to take a course of action," he said. "This is the anguish that I’m going through as an elected official is this denial of information."

The EPA didn’t respond to questions about testing on the reservation before airtime. Results for the upper Animas are online. The New Mexico Environment Department has also been testing.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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