Navajo Nation announces lawsuit against EPA for ‘Unprecedented’ Gold Mine Disaster
– Washington Times
“The Navajo Nation announced Monday plans to file a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency over damage stemming from last year’s Gold King Mine spill, calling it an “unprecedented environmental disaster.”
The New Mexico-based nation is scheduled to hold a press conference Tuesday on its reservation near the San Juan River, which was contaminated after an EPA-led crew accidentally uncorked 3 million gallons of toxic sludge from an inactive mine upstream near Silverton, Colorado.
The plume moved downstream from the Animas River to the San Juan, turning the rivers orange, forcing local officials to cut off water supplies for residents, livestock and farms, and requiring the tribe to bring in truckloads of clean water.
The Navajo lawsuit comes as the latest litigation stemming from the August 2015 contamination: In May, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a complaint in federal court against the mine’s owners and the EPA, arguing that the agency’s response was inadequate.
Mr. Balderas also sued the state of Colorado for what he described as its “reckless” management and lax oversight of the mine after negotiations between the states failed.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy promised to take responsibility for the clean-up shortly after the spill, although House Republicans have accused the agency of holding itself to a lower standard than that expected of private companies.
LoRenzo Bates, speaker of the Navajo Nation, called on the EPA to expedite its response at a forum last week hosted by Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, New Mexico Democrat.
“We shouldn’t expect this to go away,” Mr. Bates said in a press release. “We have to understand that there will be long-term impacts and we all have our own resources so we need to determine how these multiple jurisdictions will work together in the long-term.”
Navajo Nation sues EPA over metal sludge from Colorado mine spill
“WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Navajo Nation sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, one year after 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater spilled into three states from an abandoned Colorado gold mine.
In a court filing, the Navajo tribe alleged the EPA and other parties “recklessly” burrowed into the Gold King Mine in 2015, releasing waste into water upstream from the tribe’s land.
A year later, the waterways remain contaminated and the Navajo people have yet to be compensated, according to the complaint that also names EPA contractor Environmental Restoration, the Kinross Gold Corp and Sunnyside Gold Corp.
“One of the Navajo people’s most important sources of water for life and livelihood was poisoned with some of the worst contaminants known to man, including lead and arsenic,” Navajo Nation said in the 48-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico.
An EPA spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on pending litigation.
The August 2015 rupture of the closed mine unleashed a torrent of yellow sludge with high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead in areas of New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. An EPA inspection team had been at the site to inspect seepage at the mine, which had been dormant for decades.
New Mexico has already sued the EPA, citing widespread environmental damage and economic harm.
In its suit, Navajo Nation – a federally recognized Indian Tribe – cited millions of dollars of damage to its people and a lack of “any meaningful recovery,” pointing to the tribe’s heavy reliance on the now-contaminated San Juan River.
“Efforts to be made whole over the past year have been met with resistance, delays, and second-guessing,” it wrote. The EPA and the other defendants “ignored warning signs for years” and “failed to prepare for known risks of a mine blowout,” it added.
The EPA has said it takes responsibility for the cleanup and that it has made more than $29 million available in response, including more than $1 million to Navajo Nation. It has yet to decide whether to designate Gold King as a Superfund site, which would give it access more cleanup funds.”
….Continue reading @ Yahoo.com
– Amazing that under previous adminstrations, the Federal Environmental Protection agency did it’s best to protect the environment, under the Obama Administration they manage to pollute on a scale the EPA was designed to prevent.
Incomprehensible that the Navajo Nation must sue the Federal Government to prevent them from polluting lands the government is obligated to protect./CJ
Navajo Nation ‘Weeping’ as Toxic Mining Spill Flows Through Reservation
Just days after a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) crew accidentally released more than three million gallons of mustard-colored wastewater into a tributary of the Animas River, Navajo President Russell Begaye stood on the unstable ground at the site of the breach.
“I looked into this black hole, and yellow water was coming out,” Begaye said on Thursday August 13 when he and Vice President Jonathan Nez sat down for an exclusive interview with Indian Country Today Media Network.
“It was like orange juice,” he said. “Pure yellow. Like Tang.”
Begaye and a team of Navajo officials, including experts from the tribe’s environmental protection agency, were visiting Gold King Mine, one of at least 500,000 abandoned mines nationwide. The mine, near Silverton, had been inactive since about 1920. There, on August 5, an EPA crew was attempting to pump contaminated liquid out of the abandoned mine by inserting a pipe into debris that blocked the entrance.
The crew underestimated the pressure and volume built up behind the blockage, and when workers removed too much debris the roof ruptured, releasing a plume of toxic waste into Cement Creek, which drains into the Animas River. The polluted waters were carried along the Animas River, through Durango, Colorado, and then flowed into the San Juan River in Farmington, New Mexico, on the morning of Saturday August 8.
By Saturday afternoon that plume had reached the Navajo Nation, a sprawling, 27,000-square-mile reservation that spans portions of three states. Roughly 215 miles of the San Juan River flows across Navajo land, Begaye said, and thousands of residents will feel the impact of the spill.
“We use the river extensively,” he said. “For us it’s not just recreational purposes. Our cattle, our livestock, our medicine people use it. Our farmers rely on it, and it’s a source of drinking water. Our whole economy along the river is based on it.”
…Continue reading @ indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com