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 last week reviewed the grant and forwarded it to the Navajo Nation Council, which now is expected to pass legislation to approve the grant.

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 homes that were demolished after contamination. The homes are located in different parts of 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 mines to build homes.

The homes were demolished during the past decade because of elevated levels of uranium, which endangered people who were exposed to it.

Between the late 1940s and the mid-1980s, about four million tons of uranium were extracted from the Navajo Nation. At the time, uranium was mined to produce weapons for World War II and the Cold War.

The ore was removed through conventional underground mining, a practice that allowed uranium to seep into the land and water in the surrounding area.


The people who worked in and around the mines were exposed to uranium, and many of them believe their health issues later in life were tied to the exposure.

While the tribe is looking for additional funding to clean up the mines and conduct studies on how uranium affects the people's heath, the money to be approved this week will be used to pay for labor, materials, construction, and design, according to Navajo Nation Council Delegate Elmer Begay.

Several delegates expressed concerns about how funds would be dispersed and used, and also why it had taken so long for the grant to come before the committee and the council.

"This goes all the way back to 2012, and we're finally approving it," Delegate Nelson BeGaye said.

The money is to be used by Oct. 13, which the delegates also were concerned about, suggesting that the time limit may cause hastier 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; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane