Tag Archives: Animas River

EPA Plans For Better Cleanup After Gold King Mine Spill

A year after the Gold King Mine spilled three million gallons of toxic chemicals into the Animas River, the EPA last week announced the site as a Superfund site, where a polluted area is required for a long-term cleanup and becomes eligible for federal funding to do so. With the Bonita Peak Mining District now on the National Priorities List, the agency will devote $1 billion for better investigating and addressing contamination concerns for those along the San Juan River, including the Navajo Nation who are still waiting for compensation for lost crops and reassurance of the water’s quality. The Navajo Nation is hesitant  to use any water for farming and livestock, as they are skeptical of the water’s safety and concerned with long-term health effects from the spill.

The EPA’s announcement comes a few weeks after the Navajo Nation sued them for an insufficient cleanup after the Gold King Mine Spill and the lack of compensation for lost crops for a year. Almost 3,000 farms and ranches were affected as they stopped irrigating from the river and crops dried up and livestock were sold due to lacking resources to maintain them. Some remain doubtful that the river will ever be restored with lacking reassurances of safety and over a century’s worth of mining affecting the area with hundreds of abandoned mines near the Animas River which were poorly constructed and managed.

Even a bipartisan group of senators want to expedite the reimbursement to those affected by the Gold King Mine Spill. They introduced an amendment to the Water Resources Development Act which would force the EPA to pay eligible claims made after October 2015 within 90 days. County officials, local companies and individuals through the states of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah are still waiting for thousands of dollars worth of reimbursement with some only being paid in part and others receiving nothing so far.

While these issues should have been addressed long ago with the EPA taking responsibility for the Gold King Mine Spill, it is a relief to environmental and tribal activists that the agency will better assess the damage and devote what will likely be 10 years into cleanup of the Animas and San Juan Rivers. The Navajo Nation had to wait for far too long for their concerns to be properly addressed with their livelihoods at stake. It seems that the EPA is finally taking full, genuine accountability for the Gold King Mine Spill and will address the increasing complaints.

With a newfound hope for the Navajo and their livelihood to be fully restored, these developments from the EPA are the course of action we need to see in light of the Dakota Access Pipeline which will threaten the water supply of the Standing Rock Tribe and the 18 million people living downstream. While the Obama Administration temporarily halted construction near the reservation, Energy Transfer CEO Kelcy Warren announced that 60 percent of the pipeline is finished and vows to complete construction, saying that “concerns about the pipeline’s impact on the local water supply are unfounded.” The violation of basic human rights will not be ignored and the voices against the pipeline will only become louder until construction halts indefinitely and Energy Transfer accepts accountability.

 

Voice your opposition to the DAPL by signing onto these petitions:

Earth Justice: https://secure.earthjustice.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=1861&_ga=1.188139371.296617086.1429319754

Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/jo-ellen-darcy-stop-the-dakota-access-pipeline

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Image Source: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/news/navajo-nation-sues-federal-government-for-gold-king-mine-spill-8556166 [Photographer: Jerry McBride]

 

Navajo Nation Sues EPA for Neglect in Toxic Spill

After waiting a year for compensation, the Navajo Nation sued the EPA last week for the Gold King Mine Spill of August 2015 when three million gallons of toxic waste contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers. Contracted workers from the EPA were trying to drain the toxic water from a dam when it ruptured from built up pressure and leaked into the rivers from Colorado to Utah and New Mexico. The chemicals turned the water yellow and made it unsafe for drinking or farming.

“For nearly two days, the USEPA did not call, alert or notify the Nation that this toxic sludge had been released and was headed into their waters and land,” the Navajo Nation said in their 48-page complaint. Even when they were alerted of the spill, they were not told details as to when it would arrive and how long it would last. This was especially concerning to more secluded communities which are farther away from outside resources like Mexican Water, Utah and waited weeks until EPA crews came out to assess damage in the area.

The color faded and the EPA reported the river was restoring itself and  was safe for use two weeks after the spill began. However, Navajo President Russell Begaye warned residents against using the water with concerns of toxins remaining in the sediment until the Nation conducted their own analysis of the river, indicating distrust in the EPA. Tanks of non-potable water were taken to farmers as an alternative to sustain their crops and livestock, yet by then approximately 2,000 Navajo farmers along the river had their crops dry up after they stopped using irrigation pumps.

Two months after the incident, the Department of Interior found in their 132-page report that the spill resulted from improperly rushed and insufficient engineering which didn’t even consider possible consequences if something went wrong. Therefore, the spill could have been prevented in the first place.

Despite the EPA taking full responsibility, there have still been no significant efforts for proper clean-ups, compensation for lost crops or health protection for the Navajo. The Nation still worries about long term health effects, including eating produce or livestock that has come into contact with the contaminated water. The health concerns also prevented farmers from effectively selling their produce, resulting in loss in profits.

The aftermath of the Gold King Mine Spill parallels to concerns of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which faces stalled construction on the Standing Rock Sioux’s land. From the EPA to the Army Corps of Engineers, these organizations show almost no real concern to the potential damage affecting these people and their environment. If construction isn’t stopped now, history will repeat itself as another tribe’s livelihood faces disaster.

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Image source: http://www.mining.com/navajo-sues-epa-over-gold-king-mine-spill/