indianz.com your internet resource indianz.com on facebook indianz.com on twitter indianz.com on Google+ indianz.com on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Leader of EPA visits Navajo Nation after mine spill in Colorado

Filed Under: Environment | Health | Law | National | Politics
More on: colorado, epa, gina mccarthy, gold king mine, languages, mining, navajo, new mexico, russell begaye, southern ute, uranium, utah, water
     


Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy meets with Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates, far right, President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and Attorney General Ethel Branch in Shiprock, New Mexico, on August 12, 2015. Photo from Navajo Nation Council / Facebook

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency didn't go to the site of a major mine spill in the Southwest on Wednesday but she did travel to the Navajo Nation to hear first-hand from tribal leaders who have been upset with the Obama administration's response to the disaster.

During her visit to Colorado, Administrator Gina McCarthy once again accepted responsibility for the August 5 incident at the Gold King Mine that caused at least three million gallons of waste to enter the water system. She investigated conditions at the Animas River but said she didn't have time to go to the actual site in San Juan County where the disaster originated.

"As you know, it's a significant distance away," McCarthy said during a press conference in Durango, about 55 miles from the Gold King Mine. "But I did visit the river. And I took a look at it myself. I wanted to get a sense of the river. And I think that the good news is it seems to be restoring itself."

Navajo Nation leaders, though, are not sharing McCarthy's optimism about conditions on the Animas, which leads downstream to the San Juan River on the reservation. They are referring to the spill as the "Yellow Water" catastrophe, invoking a term used in connection with the toxic legacy of uranium mining.


Indianz.Com SoundCloud: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy discusses the Gold King Mine spill during a press conference in Durango, Colorado

“Łeezh łitso, or yellow dirt, is the Navajo word for uranium, the cause of another contamination of Navajo water wells and sources decades ago, from which Navajo residents are still suffering repercussions," Vice President Nez said.

Not content with the administration's response, tribal leaders launched Operation Tó Łitso, or Operation Yellow Water, to coordinate activities across the reservation. They are also soliciting funds to start addressing some of the impacts on their citizens, many of whom rely on the river for agricultural, ranching and other purposes.

Since the spill occurred last week, the waste has traveled through the New Mexico and Utah portions of the reservation. It has the potential to affect the Arizona side once the waste reaches Lake Powell, a major tourism and recreation area further down the river.

In light of that threat, the state of Utah declared an emergency on Wednesday, joining the Navajo Nation, the Southern Ute Tribe, Colorado and New Mexico in making similar declarations and mobilizing resources to address health, safety and other concerns.


Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez visited the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado, the site of a major waste spill. Photo from Facebook

McCarthy and other EPA officials have promised to work closely with all the tribes and states as they move forward with recovery efforts. The agency has released data from Animas River tests and is analyzing conditions further downstream.

But while McCarthy has apologized for the incident, a former president of the Navajo Nation wasn't happy with the way the tribe has been treated by the agency. Peterson Zah attended at meeting at the Oljato Chapter House on the Utah-Arizona border earlier this week to to discuss the spill.

“What I was looking for was an apology. We didn’t even get one. I wanted to hear from the U.S. government that they were sorry,” Zah said after listening to lower-level EPA representatives at the chapter house.

After her stop in Colorado, McCarthy traveled to Shiprock, on the New Mexico portion of the reservation, and met with President Russell Begaye, Vice President Jonathan Nez and Navajo Nation Council Speaker LoRenzo Bates. All three leaders have been angered by the response to the spill and Begaye has promised to pursue litigation against the EPA to address the economic, social and spiritual costs of the disaster.


EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy investigates conditions on the Animas River in Colorado on August 12, 2015. Photo from EPA

Unlike McCarthy, Begaye and Nez traveled to the Gold King Mine after receiving what they said was conflicting information from the EPA. They traveled to the site on Sunday and posted Navajo and English language videos, along with a large number of photos, to help their citizens understand the situation.

Like the Navajo Nation, the states of Colorado and New Mexico are also considering lawsuits although officials say it is too early to determine the extent of the damage. In the meantime, Navajo leaders are warning their members to carefully review EPA damage forms that could result in a waiver of all future claims against the federal government.

"There is no question that Diné citizens deserve to be compensated to the fullest extent, and that the federal EPA be held accountable for their negligence," Speaker Bates said in a statement yesterday.

Related Stories:
President of Navajo Nation upset with EPA's response to spill (8/12)
Navajo Leader: 'This is an assault on who we are as Dine people' (8/11)
Navajo Nation to sue EPA over release of mine waste into waters (8/10)


Copyright © Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Tribes mount another fight after Trump approves another pipeline (3/24)
Native Sun News Today: Navajo elders continue long fight on land (3/24)
Editorial: Just another day of trying to keep up with the Trumps (3/24)
Elizabeth LaPensée: Video games encourage indigenous culture (3/24)
Mary Annette Pember: Native women work with youth offenders (3/24)
Tiffany Midge: Trump continues to conjure hero Andrew Jackson (3/24)
John Kane: Seneca Nation money train coming to end in New York (3/24)
Grand Ronde Tribes secure approval of school mascot agreement (3/24)
Editorial: Federal recognition for tribes in Virginia is long overdue (3/24)
Seneca Nation ends casino payments after sending $1.4B to state (3/24)
Appeals court hears slew of Indian cases amid focus on nominee (3/23)
Internal tribal disputes continue to trip up federal court system (3/23)
Mark Trahant: Indian health care gains ignored in political debate (3/23)
Native Sun News Today: Young fighters maintain Lakota tradition (3/23)
Ivan Star Comes Out: America loses its self-respect and humanity (3/23)
Rosalyn LaPier: Why water remains sacred to indigenous peoples (3/23)
Winona LaDuke: North Dakota spreads filth about water protectors (3/23)
Harold Monteau: Tribal governments are abusing their own people (3/23)
Alex Jacobs: Donald Trump in middle of the 'deep state civil war' (3/23)
Secretary Zinke announces 'doggy days' for Interior Department (3/23)
Keystone XL Pipeline route crosses Ponca Tribe's forced removal (3/23)
Indian lawmaker resigns after being charged for child prostitution (3/23)
Pinoleville Pomo Nation buys site of long-delayed casino project (3/23)
High court pick acknowledges poor treatment of 'sovereign' tribes (3/22)
Dakota Access submits another status update entirely under seal (3/22)
Court allows claim for alleged underpayment in Cobell settlement (3/22)
South Dakota tribes continue to extend Class III gaming compacts (3/22)
Cowlitz Tribe secures approval to offer liquor as casino debut nears (3/22)
Native Sun News Today: Community project continues at Pine Ridge (3/22)
Cronkite News: Copper mine on sacred site complains about delays (3/22)
Mary Annette Pember: Awareness for missing and murdered sisters (3/22)
Stacy Pratt: Visiting the gravesite of Andrew Jackson in Tennessee (3/22)
Murder charge filed for fatal shooting of Navajo Nation police officer (3/22)
Muckleshoot Tribe still seeking answers for fatal shooting by officer (3/22)
Hopland Band submits claim for county raid of marijuana operation (3/22)
Chukchansi Tribe sued for $21M by gaming development company (3/22)
Seminole Tribe accused of breaking contract with outlet at casino (3/22)
Indian Child Welfare Act survives attack from conservative groups (3/21)
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules hearing on diabetes (3/21)
Ponca Tribe hosts 282-mile walk to retrace trail of forced removal (3/21)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.