Navajo President Declares Health Emergency at an Administration Building


Yesterday Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly signed a resolution declaring a public health state of emergency for one of the tribe’s administration buildings due to fungi found inside the premises, states a press release.

Administration Building Two immediately closed so remediation and renovation could begin—a process that should take about six months. In the meantime, the approximately 200 employees have temporarily relocated to offices in the Window Rock, Arizona area.

“We need to ensure the health of our Navajo Nation employees is secured,” President Shelly said in a statement.

According to a report from EnviroScience Consulting Inc., the 30-year-old building has water damage and fungal spores. The report recommends the roof, the structure and electrical system all be inspected, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system be replaced.

The Navajo Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NOSHA) first ordered the building in question to close on December 27. At a January 4 meeting, they finalized plans for the more than 12 programs and staff to begin moving.

The January 4 meeting involved the Navajo Division of Health, Department of Public Health, Facilities Maintenance, Division of Community Development, NOSHA, Office of President and Vice President and the Department of Public Safety. The offices will coordinate with each other while the building is being repaired, and it will consult employees who may have been exposed to mold.

“We’re following the guidance provided through a Continuity of Operations plan and checklists to be sent out from the Department of Emergency Management,” Chief of Staff Arbin Mitchell said. “We also are going to ensure that we communicate with affected employees and the general public about what our immediate and longer term plans are going to be. We need to make sure this happens so the essential services we provide the people will continue uninterrupted.”

The declaration states that the Navajo Nation needs to provide resources to protect the health, safety and welfare of Navajo citizens regarding Administration Building Two. 

Employees are asked to follow procedures when taking items from the building to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

“We need to reduce the risk as much as possible,” said Department of Emergency Management Director Rose Whitehair. “The key people that would be affected by this would be immunocompromised persons and those with respiratory illnesses.”

The remediation and renovation is expected to cost about $12 million, a lump sum that includes renovation costs for Administration Building One, which closed in September 2010 after mold was discovered.