Navajo Nation Council Member: EPA’s River Contamination ‘An Attack of Who We Are’

By Sameer Rao Aug 12, 2015

At least one member of the Navajo Nation Council, the legislative body of the Navajo Nation, has declared the Environmental Protection Agency’s accidental release of millions of gallons of toxic waste from an abandonned gold mine near Silverton, Colorado, an affront to the Nation. 

“This is sure an attack of who we are as Navajo people,” proclaimed Council Delegate Amber Crotty to an audience at a council chamber session on Monday, August 9. In attendance were officials from the New Mexico Environment Department, among other state and municipal agencies. The session specifically dealt with the crisis, which stems from an August 5 spill in Colorado’s Cement Creek, which eventually filters into the Animas, San Juan and Colorado Rivers.

The disaster—the result of an EPA-supervised crew attempting to clear an entryway to the Gold King mine they were inspecting and unwittingly releasing the pressurized water behind it—sent more than 3 million tons of toxic mineral waste into Cement Creek and other linked rivers, staining the normally-blue water a burnt orange. 

EPA officials were scheduled to Skype into the council sessions in Window Rock, Arizona, but apparently could not because of a weak connection from their current location in remote Oljata, Utah. 

Crotty added that lawsuits against the EPA should be coming from both the local and international sphere, saying that the United Nations should be acting on the gravity of how the spill is threatening the health of the Navajo Nation’s people and ecosystems. 

Ryan Flynn of the New Mexico Environment Department also said during sessions that his department is demanding accountability from the EPA, whose different constituent branches in the states affected by the spill are allegedly on different pages and not sharing information in a cohesive manner amongst themselves or with the state and Navajo Nation. Meanwhile, the state is performing potability tests that are coming back generally positive. 

(H/t Navajo Times