Commemoration Events for Trinity Test and Church Rock Uranium Tailings Spill

July 16th is a historic day for public health and environmental disasters in New Mexico.  On July 16, 1945, the U.S. government tested the first atomic bomb, called the Gadget, on the grounds of the White Sands Missile Range.  The Gadget held 13 pounds of plutonium, of which only three pounds fissioned.  The remaining 10 pounds disbursed as the mushroom cloud came down in the rain storms that followed the blast.  The contaminated ash fell on open water sources, fields ready for harvest, gardens, workers, and animals.

Thirty-four years later, on July 16, 1979, the largest uranium tailings spill in the U.S. occurred at the North East Church Rock Uranium Tailings site.  An earthen dam, operated by United Nuclear Corporation, holding liquid uranium waste, broke.  It released 1,000 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and more than 90 million gallons of acidic and radioactive liquids into the Rio Puerco.  The contaminated waters flowed downstream through Gallup, and across nine Navajo chapters.

On Saturday, July 14th, from 7 am to 3 pm, the Red Water Pond Road Community will host its 39th annual commemoration of the 1979 Uranium Tailings Spill, at a location 12 miles north of the Red Rock State Park on State Highway 566, near Church Rock.  At 7 am there will be a walk to the spill site to offer healing prayers.  Following the walk, people will gather under shade for food, community education, speeches, and a silent auction. FLYER

Edith Hood, a resident of the Red Water Pond Road Community, said, “Let us come together again and share these issues and concerns, collaborate and strategize, to push cleanup of these contaminated environments among our Dine people, to restore, preserve and protect our Mother Earth.”

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On Saturday, July 21st, beginning at 7:30 pm, the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium will host its 9th Annual Candlelight Vigil to commemorate the 1945 Trinity test and acknowledge the negative health effects suffered by the people of New Mexico.  It will be held at the Tularosa Little League Field, located west of the Tularosa High School. v.3_9th Annual Candlelight Vigil

They will memorialize loved ones who have lost their lives to cancer and honor those who are living with or who have survived cancer by lighting luminarias with individual names written on the paper bags.

Tina Cordova, co-founder of the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium, said, “It’s difficult to grasp that we’ve been doing this for nine years now. Our list of deceased loved ones continues to grow.  We’ll light more than 800 luminarias this year, I’m certain.”

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