By Frances Stead Sellers Dec. 11, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. EST
SWEETWATER, Navajo Nation — On a good day, when the breeze is up and Apache County’s rutted red-clay roads are passable, Legena Wagner’s family drives 45 minutes to fill water containers at a windmill pump. In the days that follow, Wagner dispenses their contents sparingly: half a cup for her 5-year-old to brush his teeth; a couple of pints, well heated, to wash dishes in the decorative enamel bowl on her kitchen table; and about 10 gallons, measured out to last a week, for bathing.
“Running water, it would be such a luxury,” Wagner said, pausing to describe how different her life would be if she didn’t have to trek outside, past the empty plastic buckets and the rootling pigs, to the outhouse with its majestic views across northeast Arizona’s snow-skimmed plateaus.
Wagner is one of more than 2 million Americans who do not have running water and sanitation, according to “Closing the Water Access Gap in the United States.” The report, released by two national nonprofit organizations last month, outlines stark, race-based inequalities: Native American households are 19 times as likely as white households to lack indoor plumbing; blacks and Latinos are twice as likely.
The disparities also reflect an urban-rural divide. While the lead-contamination crisis in Flint, Mich.,highlighted the perils of aging infrastructure in the nation’s cities, rural communities face special challenges, often lacking the economies of scale to upgrade systems and the local expertise to operate them. The situation is so dire in parts of rural America that experts liken it to that in the developing world.
“The cultures are different, but the experiences are similar,” said Brett Gleitsmann, a water supply and sanitation engineer with the Rural Community Assistance Corp. who worked on projects in Africa and South Asia before coming to Native American lands. “Always people are hauling water — from a well, from a relative who has water or a public water station.”
The United States does not have a comprehensive means of tracking the number of people living without piped water, according to George McGraw, founder and CEO of the nonprofit DigDeep.
Harder still is to calculate how many people cannot afford water even if they can access it, said Radhika Fox, CEO of the U.S. Water Alliance, a policy-focused nonprofit group that partnered with DigDeep to produce the report.
“That number is much larger than 2 million,” she said.
The report was produced by collating federal data sets, including 2014 data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey, which asks a small representative sample of residents whether they have running water. DigDeep and the U.S. Water Alliance identified six communities with poor access to running water and wastewater services, including the Navajo Nation, and spent more than a year assessing how residents’ lives are affected.
In the Navajo Nation, the country’s largest Indian reservation, where water has long been held sacred, about one-third of the population of more than 300,000 does not have a tap or flushing toilet.
“Water is life,” the Navajo say. “Tó éí ííńá.”
Its cultural importance echoes in the place names — Lake Valley, Whippoorwill Springs, Indian Wells.
Here in Sweetwater, or Tó likon, 15 miles south of U.S. 160 on largely dirt roads, the spring water was known for its bracing mineral taste.
“People couldn’t get enough of it,” Wagner said. But the springs no longer flow — one of several changes that residents of this drought-prone region attribute to climate change and environmental degradation.
The seeps that used to ooze up before daybreak to refresh grazing sheep and goats have disappeared. Rains that once sustained apricots, corn and squash have been replaced by occasional downpours that race through the empty creek beds. And the winter snows no longer cloak the high desert with the thick, moist blankets Wagner’s grandfather recalls.
Those who drive miles to windmills, often carrying matches and wood to light fires below the wells’ frozen spigots, may draw water that is not safe. Many water sources across the Navajo Nation are marked with signs warning of contamination, some with naturally occurring toxins such as arsenic, some with uranium and other byproducts of the mining industry.
“A lot of people still drink from those wells,” said Jordan Begaye, who had a summer job painting “For livestock use only” on them in red. That’s despite extensive public education efforts, according to Yolanda Barney, environmental program manager for the Navajo Nation’s Public Water System Supervision Program.
Wagner wonders whether the rare autoimmune disease she suffers from — adult-onset Stills disease — could have been caused by the water, and she now supplements her supplies with bottled water from a grocery store an hour away.
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Wartburg’s 7th Annual Jazz in June Gala Raises Nearly $200,000
Featuring Special Guest Host Chazz Palminteri
Mount Vernon, N.Y. (July 1, 2019)
Wartburg, an award-winning provider of comprehensive senior residential and healthcare services, hosted their 7th annual Jazz in June: A Wartburg Celebration of Arts and Music gala on June 13, 2019, raising nearly $200,000. The event was held at the Surf Club on the Sound in New Rochelle, NY, with over 350 guests and 46 sponsors. This year’s event included a special keynote by renowned actor, Chazz Palminteri, best known for his role as “Sonny” in A Bronx Tale, now on Broadway. Rebecca Solomon, News 12 on-air reporter, was the emcee for the evening’s program.
The celebration honored:
• Fred Schwam, Former Owner & CEO of American Christmas, a leader in the holiday decorating industry since 1968 andboasting clients such as Rockefeller Center, Bergdorf Goodman and other areas around NYC and the world;
• Westchester Ambulette, longtime partners in providing safe transportation of their residents and Adult Day Care clients to and from their homes;
• Lippolis Electric, Inc., a family owned and operated electrical firm who managed Wartburg’s LED lighting campaign by replacing all current lighting to more energy-efficient models as part of their campus-wide “Green” initiative;
• Clark Patterson Lee, an architectural, engineering and design firm partnering with Wartburg on their Meadowview Assisted Living Memory Care neighborhood expansion;
• United Lutheran Church, longtime spiritual care providers and partners to the community and Wartburg.
Major sponsors for Jazz in June 2019 included: Morrison Community Living, Patient Care Associates, Inc., PharmScript LLC, Clark Patterson Lee, 58A JVD Industries, Inc., Fred & Samantha Schwam, American Christmas, Michael & Cathleen Holden and Westchester Ambulette.
"It was such a fun night, congratulations to this year’s honorees. I also extend my deepest appreciation to Chazz and Gianna Palminteri, our sponsors, and dedicated volunteers who made this year’s gala such a success," said David J. Gentner, Wartburg President and CEO.
The funds raised at this year’s gala will help Wartburg provide specialized Alzheimer’s/dementia training to clinical staff as well as help fund the vital programs and services that ensure those experiencing memory impairment live with the independence and dignity they so richly deserve.
“We could not be more thankful for the outpouring of support from our Wartburg Family through our Jazz in June Gala,” said Angela Ciminello, Vice President of Development & Marketing at Wartburg. “As our society ages at a historic rate and the number of those living with memory impairment increases each year, it is more important than ever to provide the quality of care and stimulating programs needed to ensure the oldest members of our community live their best life.”
Photo: LtoR: Rebecca Solomon, Angela Ciminello, Chazz Palminteri, David J. Gentner, Gianna Palminteri
Wartburg, located in Westchester County, NY, offers integrated, comprehensive senior residential and healthcare services. Unlike conventional retirement communities, Wartburg provides a wide range of services to both residents living on its beautiful 34-acre campus and people in their own homes. From independent, assisted living and award-winning nursing home care to inpatient/outpatient rehabilitation, home care and adult day care services, its continuing care approach has earned Wartburg a trusted reputation in Westchester. Wartburg also provides caregiver support at every stage with an array of options to find the level of care that considers the whole family. Wartburg was named one of the "Best Nursing Homes in New York State" by U.S. News & World Report for the eighth consecutive year in 2018.