Quyana to the Yukon-Kuskokwim communities for the most successful Backhaul Project yet.
The impact of a multi-year partnership has reduced the potential for hazardous materials to cause water contamination in our Y-K communities. To all our partners who have had a hand in collecting and recycling more than 600,000 pounds of these materials over the last few years, we say thank you.
Donlin Gold’s role within the Y-K region has broadened and deepened since we were first invited here to explore the possibility of responsible mineral development on Alaska Native-owned lands.
Over the past 25 years, we have built partnerships with Alaska Native Corporations, rural and statewide leaders, small businesses, residents, friends and family members in the Y-K region. Guided by our own employees who were born and raised here, we strive to be a good neighbor and help find solutions to regional challenges, one of them being waste in landfills.
For the past six years, our team has worked alongside partners like Delta Backhaul Company, Association of Village Council Presidents’ environmental department, Native Village of Napaimute, Fox Air, Ryan Air, Grant Aviation and countless IGAP workers in participating Y-K villages to remove hazardous household and electronic waste that would otherwise collect in community landfills.
We have been able to work with the City of Bethel to facilitate what has become an annual event to collect household electronic waste in the community of Bethel. This summer, we were fortunate to have the resources to remove 450 appliances from the communities of Tuntutuliak, Napakiak, Napaskiak, Kwethluk and Akiachak.
Additionally, our crew stopped at fish camps along the river and collected four, 20-foot containers of unwanted items. Our team was pleased to extend the Donlin Gold In It for the Long Haul Backhaul Project to three Yukon River villages, including Marshall, Pilot Station and Pitka’s Point. From these communities, we collected more than 17,000 pounds of e-waste, fluorescent bulbs and batteries, among other items.
We express our deepest gratitude in working side by side to better the Y-K region. Quyana!
Colleen Laraux, Rebecca Wilmarth, Rebeca Chimegalrea, and Sam Angaiak-Miller are Donlin Gold community liaisons. They are part of the proposed mine’s community relations team, which focuses on outreach to regional stakeholders.
Colleen Laraux, Rebecca Wilmarth, Rebeca Chimegalrea, and Samantha Angaiak-Miller
Donlin Gold Community Liaisons
Asbestos, the silent danger still affecting Alaska’s veterans
The U.S. armed forces employed asbestos-containing products throughout much of the 20th century. All five military branches relied heavily on contaminated products, and as a consequence, many service members were exposed to asbestos while defending our nation.
Today, as these brave men and women transition into civilian life after their service, they risk developing life-altering diseases that may be linked to their military years. Asbestos exposure remains a compelling concern for all veterans, including those among Alaska’s 70,000 veterans who served on military bases throughout Alaska. Kodiak was home to the Naval Air Station Kodiak, which was founded in 1941. During World War II, the site was the principal advance Naval base in Alaska and the North Pacific, making asbestos awareness among Alaska veterans a critical issue.
Once praised for its fire-resistant and insulating properties, asbestos was widely used in naval construction during the last century. It was everywhere on naval ships, and nobody thought about asbestos being a potent threat when its microscopic fibers were released into the air and inhaled.
The hidden harm that slowly undermines many veterans’ health condition
Over the years of duty, veterans serving on naval bases and ships were near materials containing asbestos, often unaware of the danger they represented. Because the toxic material was abundantly present on military property like aircraft, engine rooms, sleeping barracks, and mess halls, former service members were at a high risk of asbestos exposure.
Due to the size and structure of its fibers, asbestos may float in the air for hours. The microscopic threads are easily inhaled or ingested, and once in the body, they cause irreversible damage to major organs and lead to devastating asbestos-related diseases.
One of the most vicious aspects of these diseases is the long latency period between exposure and the appearance of symptoms. Veterans may not have experienced health issues during their service; for many, the effects of asbestos exposure only became evident decades later when they were diagnosed with illnesses related to their exposure, like mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis, or other respiratory diseases.
The battle for health and well-being
Although many years have passed since asbestos was widely used by the Navy and the other armed services, veterans who came in contact with asbestos during their duty now face a battle for their health. Many must confront the harsh reality that their service to the country held a tremendous personal sacrifice and that besides affecting them physically and psychologically, their asbestos conditions shorten their lifespan and steal valuable time from their families.
Considering that early detection can significantly improve treatment outcomes and may add years to life, veterans should proactively protect their health through:
·Regular health check-ups: Making periodic medical examinations and talking to the doctor about military service and probable asbestos exposure is crucial. Lungs are primarily damaged by inhaled asbestos fibers. Therefore, veterans should request periodic chest X-rays and pulmonary function tests (also known as the breathing test), as these show any changes caused by the asbestos particles and are a reliable diagnostic procedure for malignant and benign asbestos-related illnesses.
·Know your rights: Veterans who suspect they’ve been exposed to asbestos, or those who are sure they’ve worked around asbestos during their duty, should know their rights and options. Legal avenues and compensation programs are available to assist those injured by asbestos exposure.
As a veteran, you have the legal right to seek compensation from asbestos trust funds and apply for VA disability benefits. Asbestos trust funds are a significant source of monetary compensation for individuals affected by occupational exposure, including former Navy personnel. These funds were set up by liable companies that entered bankruptcy protection and have approximately $37 billion currently available for future claimants. Navy veterans harmed by asbestos exposure during duty can file a claim for indemnification with both asbestos trust funds and Veterans Affairs.
·Promote awareness: Brotherhood and protecting the other is one of the lessons in the army; veterans can play a massive role in raising awareness and educating by sharing experiences with their communities and fellow servicemen and women about asbestos exposure risks. By doing so, they can help make sure that others who served the country are informed.
Honoring service and ensuring well-being
In our expressions of gratitude to veterans, let us also acknowledge our responsibility to protect their health and well-being. Awareness of asbestos exposure is an integral part of this responsibility. By shedding light on this concealed danger, we can ensure that those who served receive the care and support they rightly deserve.
Asbestos Ships Organization is a nonprofit whose primary mission is to raise awareness and educate veterans about the dangers of asbestos exposure on Navy ships and assist them in navigating the VA claims process.
Cristina Johnson, Navy Veteran Advocate
Asbestos Ships Organization