The Navajo Nation has hired a prominent Southern California law firm to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency following the massive Animas River wastewater spill.
On August 5, the EPA accidentally released three million gallons of toxic, orange sludge into the river when conducting an assessment of the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. The mine waste contains arsenic, lead, mercury, and other potentially harmful heavy metals. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has accepted full responsibility for the accident and pledged to provide necessary resources to facilitate a cleanup, which has cost the taxpayer more than $100 million so far.
“The plume of heavy-metal laden wastewater then flowed into the San Juan River, which runs through the northern portion of the Navajo Nation and converges with the Colorado River at Lake Powell in southeastern Utah,” The Daily Times reported.
Several federal investigations into the incident are ongoing. “I don’t trust the EPA of this administration to investigate itself. It would never have allowed BP to investigate the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” declared Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, however.
The semi-autonomous Navajo Nation is located in northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah, and northwestern New Mexico.
“The impact [of the spill] has been devastating to our culture and economy, as well as to the peace of mind of our people,” said Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch.
The Obama EPA waited about 24 hours before informing the Navajo Nation about the spill. Gov. Susana Martinez of nearby New Mexico also wants an explanation as to why the feds delayed notifying her administration about the disaster for the same amount of time.
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye also officially asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate the disaster response. “This expansion into Navajo lands via the San Juan River has critically impacted the River and its dependent ecosystems including wildlife, fish populations, and the land base adjacent to the River…the nature of this toxic chemical spill will acutely and chronically impact the River and dependent ecosystem if immediate and effective corrective actions and remedies are not taken,” Begaye’s letter to FEMA explained, according to The Hill.
An EPA internal review suggested that the Gold King Mine blowout was “likely inevitable” and identified procedures to avoid a similar occurrence moving forward.
“If a spill was inevitable, shouldn’t EPA have been prepared to contain it instead of allowing a river popular with tourists and important to farmers and local residents to be filled with 3 million gallons of toxic water?,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked.
Presidential candidate Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon, has called for reparations and compensation from the EPA for victims of the Animas Rivers spill similar to what the agency would demand from a private-sector business if that business had been responsible.
“Imagine what would happen if a private company caused this waste spill,” Gov. Martinez similarly noted about the Animas River-related disaster. She added that the EPA “should demand the same of itself as it would of a private business responsible for such a spill.”
[image via Twitter]