Navajo President Threatens To Sue EPA Over Mine Spill

By Laurel Morales
August 11, 2015
Environmental Protection Agency
On Aug. 5, the EPA was investigating contamination of this old Colorado mine when it unexpectedly triggered a release of 3 million gallons of toxic waste.

The Navajo president has threatened to sue the EPA over the Colorado mine spill.

Federal and tribal officials are setting up potable water stations and alerting communities to the contamination, as the toxic waste is making its way through the reservation.

Last week, the EPA was investigating an old gold mine near Silverton, when it breached a dam of sediment and released 3 million gallons of mustard yellow mine waste downstream into the Animas and now the San Juan Rivers. 

Navajo President Russell Begaye called for a state of emergency after he toured the mine over the weekend. 

Downstreamm, federal officials have released a surge of water from Navajo Dam to dilute the San Juan River. County officials have shut down five public water intakes in New Mexico. Vice President Jonathan Nez said that means thousands of Navajo farmers are without water for their livestock and crops.

"Many of the farmers there are saying if we don’t get water to our crops in the next two weeks then our whole season is pretty much gone," Nez said. "But the question is when is it safe to utilize this water."

EPA spokesman Shaun McGrath said they don’t know. The agency and its contractors will continue to test the water over the next several days and weeks.

Meanwhile, President Begaye has assembled a legal team and said he will hold the EPA’s feet to the fire.

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