A Year Later, EPA Awards Navajo $445K for Gold King Mine Spill

By Yessenia Funes Aug 08, 2016

In 2015, three million gallons of acid mine water at the Gold King Mine spill near Silverton, Colorado, poured into the Animas and San Juan rivers. And now, one year later, the EPA is awarding the Navajo Nation an additional $445,000 to the $157,000 the agency awarded in March.

The spill—for which the EPA was found responsible, according to this federal report—resulted from an EPA excavation that accidentally released wastewater that was stored behind an abandoned mine. It soon flowed onto Navajo land, shutting down that year’s harvest season and polluting a sacred water source.

This new round of financial assistance will go toward supporting the Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center, drinking water monitoring and hauling, as well as funding the Navajo Department of Agriculture to visit farmers and assess “needs for agricultural water and feed during the response.”

The Nation was critical of the agency’s aid back in June 2016, according to Indian Country Today Media Network. “The U.S. EPA seeks press for taking small steps and half measures almost a full year after the Gold King Mine spill,” said Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye in a statement to the network. “In the meantime, the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people continue to suffer as a result of the U.S. EPA’s actions. The time has long passed for the U.S. EPA to act responsibly and fulfill their legal and moral obligations to the Navajo Nation.”

Though the river water no longer runs brown, farmers and ranchers don’t feel completely comfortable using it, reports Indian County Today.

“We definitely have to keep monitoring the river,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates to the news site. “We still don’t know the scope of the spill.”