In The News

DAILY TIMES: Navajo Nation Bill Calls On Obama To Hold EPA Accountable For Gold King Mine Spill

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A Navajo lawmaker is sponsoring a bill advocating President Barack Obama hold the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accountable for the Gold King Mine spill.

The EPA has accepted responsibility for the spill last month that released more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River, which meets the San Juan River and flows through the northern portion of the Navajo Nation.

In testimony before several Senate committees last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy defended her agency’s response to the spill, which she called “tragic and unfortunate.”

Delegate Jonathan Hale, who represents Oak Springs and St. Michaels chapters in Arizona, is sponsoring the tribal bill.

Hale, who is chairman of the tribal council’s Health, Education and Human Services Committee, said that under tribal law the committee has the responsibility to address environmental situations that affect human health.

The bill states countless Navajo farmers were severely impacted by the spill because the contaminated wastewater flowed into the San Juan River, which supplies the tribe’s irrigation canals.

Within days of the spill, tribal officials issued restrictions for using river water to irrigate crops and water livestock and for recreational purposes. Restrictions were eventually lifted for irrigation purposes in certain chapter areas.

The spill also contaminated drinking water in the area and forced families to haul water for themselves and their livestock, according to the bill.

“This boo-boo is detrimental to the people,” Hale said in a telephone interview Friday.

He added that tribal officials have discussed proposing this type of legislation since the Aug. 5 spill.

The bill would also confirm the tribe’s stance regarding the issue, and that point of view would remain in place as future lawmakers continue to address the situation, Hale added.

The legislation will be eligible for committee action on Tuesday and was assigned to the Health, Education and Human Services; Resources and Development; and Naa’bik’íyáti’ committees.

AP: Study Finds Heavy Metals In Animas River Sludge

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Researchers say they found scattered accumulations of heavy metals along a 60-mile stretch of riverbank in Colorado and New Mexico a month after the Gold King Mine wastewater spill and say that any potential threat to crops and livestock should be studied further.

David Weindorf of Texas Tech University and Kevin Lombard of New Mexico State University said they found patches of discolored sludge containing elevated levels of iron, copper, zinc, arsenic and lead along the Animas River from around Farmington to just north of Durango.


The Hill: Week Ahead: EPA Under Fire For Mine Waste Spill

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy is appearing at three Capitol Hill hearings to answer questions about the mine waste spill in Colorado that her agency has taken responsibility for.

The hearings are part of an effort by lawmakers to figure out what went wrong at the Gold King Mine and afterward, who is responsible and how the EPA can prevent it from happening again.

Republicans have attacked the EPA as incompetent and accused officials of holding themselves to a different standard than what they expect of private companies.


Las Vegas Review-Journal: EDITORIAL: Congress Must Hold EPA Accountable For Polluting River System

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The EPA, like the rest of the federal bureaucracy, exists by a double standard. But the shamelessness of the regulatory state in perpetuating that double standard never ceases to amaze us.

On Aug. 5, an Environmental Protection Agency team triggered the release of at least 3 million gallons of rust-colored sludge from the inactive Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo. According to EPA testing, concentrations of arsenic, lead and other toxins initially spiked in the area’s river system, measuring (in some locations) hundreds of times higher than recommended for drinking water.


Cortez Journal: Congress Grills EPA On Spill

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As part of a series of congressional hearings, outraged members of the U.S. House of Representatives grilled the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and affiliated parties and asked the agency to take responsibility for the Aug. 5 acid water spill from the Gold King Mine that affected multiple water systems in the Four Corners.

The federal Science, Space and Technology Committee on Wednesday complained of negligence and lack of transparency to Mathy Stanislaus, assistant administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, who handles the EPA’s emergency-response actions.


ABQJOURNAL: EPA Takes Heat Over Colorado Mine Spill

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House Republicans blasted the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday for triggering a mine spill that polluted the Animas River, but some Democrats argued the accident was small compared with the amount of pollutants that private mining companies release into the river each year.

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, called the actions of federal and contract workers who accidentally unleashed mining waste into the river at the abandoned Gold King mine near Silverton, Colo. “inexcusable.” The spill polluted waters in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Wednesday’s hearing was the first of several scheduled in Congress.


WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Navajo Don’t Trust EPA’s Toxic Spill Investigation

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The Navajo Nation’s environmental regulator said Wednesday that it has “grave concerns” that the Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation into a massive toxic spill last month represents a “strong conflict of interest” and is calling for the creation of an independent panel.

An Aug. 5 spill in Colorado caused by an EPA contractor was the subject of a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing on Wednesday. The spill released 3 million gallons of toxic sludge that stretched across the waterways of three states, including portions of the San Juan River that runs along tribal lands in New Mexico.


ARIZONA PUBLIC RADIO: Navajo EPA Head Calls On Congress To Intervene In Mine Spill Recovery

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The director of the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency has called on Congress to intervene in the tribe’s recovery from last month’s Gold King Mine spill. Navajo officials say the federal government has failed to provide adequate relief to residents and farmers.

Navajo EPA director Donald Benn has requested federal money to examine possible long-term health effects of the 3-million-gallon toxic spill. He’s also called for the establishment of a fund to help Navajo ranchers and farmers along the San Juan River, one of at least two western waterways affected.


AP: Activist Tours Areas Affected By The Gold King Mine Spill

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Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, made famous from the Oscar-winning movie bearing her name, visited the nation’s largest Native American reservation to see the damage caused by millions of gallons of wastewater that spilled from a Colorado mine.

She met with Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye on Tuesday to hear about what he saw when he visited the mine in August, just days after a crew working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency unleashed the waste tainted with heavy metals. The agency says 3 million gallons spilled.


NAVAJO TIMES: Erin Brockovich: ‘Shame On The EPA!’

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Celebrity environmental activist Erin Brockovich toured farms along the San Juan River and spoke at two Navajo Nation high schools Thursday, promising to bring national attention to the August 5 spill of 3 million gallons of mine wastewater into the Animas River upstream of the San Juan.

Brockovich called on the federal government to build a water-testing lab for the Navajo Nation, to clean up the hundreds of abandoned mines above Silverton, Colo., whose tailing piles wash into the Animas, and to resume delivering clean water to affected chapters.