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Navajo President Calls On Congress To Hold EPA Accountable For Spill

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

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Navajo President Calls On Congress To Hold EPA Accountable For Spill

Navajo President Calls On Congress To Hold EPA Accountable For Spill

Courtesy of Rusell Begaye

Russell Begaye

Navajo President Russell Begaye called on Congress on Wednesday to hold the Environmental Protection Agency responsible for last month’s mine spill and provide compensation for the hundreds of Navajo farmers and ranchers affected.

President Begaye told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee water is sacred; it defines us. And today the Navajo communities along the San Juan River are afraid to use that water.

“It is really disheartening to stand alongside a farmer, his wife saying that we used to sing to our crops,” Begaye said. “And I know it’s gone. They know it’s gone. But I see them and they say, ‘we still take our five-gallon bucket of water and we’re still giving water to that watermelon because it’s like our children. We’re not going to abandon them we’re going to stay with them until their gone.’”

Farmer Gilbert Harrison said the spill has caused many conflicts among community and family members over who gets water.

“It’s a feeling of helplessness to watch your crops dry and die,” Harrison said.

The EPA has pulled emergency water tanks from the Navajo Nation and the agency plans to stop providing hay this week.

www.EPA.gov

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.

Sen. John McCain took EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to task over who’s responsible asking why hasn’t anyone been fired.

“When the agency is responsible then people are responsible,” McCain said. “Don’t you think someone is responsible for the accident that happened? A river was polluted. People were not notified. Why is it you’re saying you don’t know anyone was responsible?

McCarthy explained she’s waiting to see the Interior Department’s report of the incident to take action. All other mine clean ups have been put on hold until the report is complete.

McCarthy said her top concerns include the heavy metals that accumulate in the sediment and the Animas watershed area. There’s discussion of making that entire area, where there are hundreds of abandoned mines, an EPA superfund site.

More Gold King Mine Coverage

Laurel Morales was a Fronteras Desk reporter in Flagstaff from 2011 to 2020.