Navajo sue the EPA over Gold King Mine spill

Posted at 8:40 PM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 22:40:54-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- On Aug. 5, 2015, an Environmental Protection Agency cleanup project went wrong, filling a river between Silverton and Durango, Colo. with a red-brown toxic mixture that flowed into important waters downstream.

One year later, Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch says the EPA, despite admitting their mistake, has treated the Navajo with suspicion when the tribe and tribal members request help.

“We’re tired of fighting over every little thing,” Branch said.

Branch said the Navajo are still feeling the impact of the three million gallons of heavy, metal-filled sludge that poured from the Gold King Mine into the Animus River in Western Colorado.

The Animas flows into the San Juan River, and the San Juan is the most significant source of water in the Four Corners region occupied by the Navajo Nation.

“Our most fertile area of the Navajo Nation is here in the Shiprock area along the San Juan River,” Branch said.

The Environmental Protection Agency took responsibility for the spill, but the Navajo say that has not led to action, which has led to a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in Albuquerque, N.M.

The EPA told CNN they don’t comment on pending lawsuits, but they do say they have committed $29 million to the cleanup effort, and the water is now safe.

Branch and other Navajo are skeptical. She says some farmers did not plant crops this season, fearing contaminated irrigation water, and that means they are not able to provide traditional corn and squash for their extended families.