For more than two years the Yerington Paiute Tribe has been unable to drink the water from its taps due to arsenic and uranium contamination. Furthermore, the tribe and its lessee, Rite of Passage training academy, were under pressure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for being out of compliance with the Clean Water Act, and substantial fines were looming.
Tribal Chairman Elwood Emm knew what to do: he reached out to the staff at USDA Rural Development and asked for assistance, and Community Programs Director Kay Vernatter and Loan Specialist and Native American Coordinator Barbara Allen have been only too happy to respond.
Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook was on hand at the tribe’s Campbell Ranch reservation on Earth Day to celebrate the result. She congratulated the partnership that has formed among the expertise, financing, and commitment of Rural Development ($1,167,171), EPA ($581,325), and the Indian Health Services ($228,000), which is also providing the engineering for the system design. She stated,”It is a pleasure to be here today to witness triumph over adversity. Not only will this partnership provide clean water, but also the water system will be extended to accommodate more residences and additional enterprise development – you will not just address one problem, you are providing for your community’s future. I congratulate you.”
In my remarks I noted that It is a privilege for us to celebrate Earth Day with the Yerington Paiute Tribe, who value and respect the earth and its waters so deeply. They have made us pause from our pursuit of looping pipes and installing pumps in order to really think about the larger forces at hand.
As an added contribution to saving the earth’s resources, solar power will be used to operate the pumps.
The ceremony, including a blessing by a tribal elder and an honor song, was attended by more than 70 people, including representatives from the offices of Senator Harry Reid and Senator John Ensign.
Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl L. Cook (left) and members of the Yerington Paiute Tribal Council and Nevada staff of USDA Rural Development. Native American Coordinator Barbara Allen is forth from left, Tribe Vice Chairman Kenneth Roberts (fifth from left) Tribal Chairman Elwood Emm, (Third from right) Community Programs Director Kay Vernatter (Second from right), and Nevada State Director Sarah Adler, (right)