Monday, December 19, 2016

Navajo Nation Seeks $160 Million in Damages for Gold King Mine Spill

Navajo Nation farmers still suffering 16 months after three million gallons of mining waste flowed into San Juan River

The Navajo Nation is seeking more than $160 million in damages and for alleged ongoing injuries caused by the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill, which released millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into one of the tribe’s significant waterways. The Navajo Nation Department of Justice has filed a claim against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for $159 million in damages and $3.2 million to cover expenses already submitted that have yet to be reimbursed, the tribe said on December 5. The EPA admitted responsibility for the spill but has not yet compensated Navajo residents for the damage or guaranteed that the water is safe to use. The Navajo already filed a lawsuit back in August alleging that the three-million-gallon spill could have been prevented, but it did not specify damages. “The spill has transformed our sacred river—once the life-giver and protector of the Navajo people—into a threat to our people, our crops and our animals,” Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch said in the tribe’s statement. “In particular, it has impaired our ability to maintain the cultural, ceremonial and spiritual practices that undergird the Navajo way of life.” The Navajo aim to hold the federal government accountable for the breach and force the EPA to provide relief to hundreds of residents still reeling from the spill. The money will be used for long-term ecological monitoring, water treatment, construction of an alternative water supply and the ongoing monitoring of the cultural, psychological and physical health of the Navajo people. A seven-page letter from the Navajo Nation to EPA claims officer Kenneth Redden alleges the agency knew the mine was at risk for a blowout and “ignored warning signs for years,” the letter states, but adds that when the breach occurred, crews were “entirely unprepared to deal with the colossal damage it had unleashed.”...more

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