PHOENIX--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Arizona Public Service announced today an effort to help the Navajo Nation as it works to overcome a major water crisis precipitated by contamination to the Animas-San Juan River basin. In response to Navajo President Russell Begaye’s declaration of a state of emergency, APS will provide grants totaling up to $100,000 along with other assistance.
“The APS Foundation will make an immediate pledge of $50,000 for the relief effort,” said Don Brandt, APS Chairman, President and CEO. “In addition, to help the people of the Navajo Nation bring attention to this immediate challenge, we will match any contributions from other Arizona businesses in the next two weeks, up to an additional $50,000.”
Donations will go through the Navajo United Way, which is the primary agent for relief. APS’s initial $50,000 grant will be directed to the Nation’s Nenahnezad, San Juan, Upper Fruitland, Tse Daa Kaan, and Shiprock chapters, which are close to the Four Corners Power Plant near Farmington, N.M. Already, other companies have joined the relief effort. Scottsdale-based Salt River Materials Group (owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community) has committed $10,000.
“We are a Native American company with a large employee base in that area,” said Roger Smith, Salt River Materials Group CEO and President. “We are concerned about the impacts of this disaster on the Navajo people, and we want to help. Like Don Brandt, I urge others to step forward to help our neighbors in need.”
Four Corners co-owners Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power, Public Service of New Mexico and El Paso Electric also have pledged support.
Earlier this month, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency workers, attempting to clean up an abandoned southwestern Colorado gold mine, precipitated the release of more than 3 million gallons of mine waste water containing high levels of lead, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic elements and heavy metals. The water flowed from the Gold King Mine into the Animas River. The Animas flows into the San Juan and its tributaries, which are the primary sources serving five water supply systems downstream, including much of the Navajo Nation.
President Begaye has described this river system as the Nation’s water lifeline that provides drinking water and supports crops and livestock essential to the reservation. President Begaye said the spill could take decades to clean up and is “a disaster of huge proportions.” On Aug. 21, the Shiprock chapter made the difficult decision to keep its canals, fed by the San Juan River, closed until the community can be sure the water is safe for irrigation and livestock. More than 500 Navajo families will continue to be affected by the closure of the river.
“Nearly 80 percent of employees at Four Corners are Navajo, like me,” said Arvin Trujillo, manager of Government Relations at the Four Corners Plant. “This is our home, and our Navajo farmers and ranchers need the assistance and support. I am proud that my company has stepped forward, and I hope others find it in their hearts to reach out to the Navajo people in this time of great need.”