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Navajo Nation hires firm to pursue Gold King Mine spill lawsuit






The San Juan River remains under a health and safety advisory on the Navajo Nation. Photo from Facebook

The Navajo Nation hired a law firm to pursue claims arising from the Gold King Mine disaster.

An August 5 incident at the abandoned mine in Colorado sent 3 million gallons of toxic waste into the water system. Hueston Hennigan, a firm with experience in environmental damage cases, will help the tribe address the impacts of the catastrophe.

“The impact has been devastating to our culture and economy, as well as to the peace of mind of our people," Attorney General Ethel Branch said in a press release. "With unknown amounts of this fine sediment in our water we now we face the risk of reliving this nightmare with every major increased water flow event affecting the river."

The tribe shut down the San Juan River in New Mexico to protect crops, livestock and people from contamination. Tests showed high levels of dangerous chemicals like lead, mercury and arsenic following the spill.

The Environmental Protection Agency has said conditions on the San Juan River have returned to "pre-incident" levels. But tribal leaders have been concerned about the Obama administration's handling of an incident they are calling Yellow Water, a reference to a term used in connection with the toxic legacy of uranium mining on the reservation.

The tribe has since flushed an irrigation canal but many farmers lost crops because they went without reliable water for more than three weeks.

Get the Story:
Navajo Nation names firm for mine spill lawsuit (The Farmington Daily Times 9/1)
Navajo Nation preps lawsuit against EPA over mine spill (The Hill 8/31)
Flushing starts on Fruitland Irrigation canal (The Farmington Daily Times 8/30)
Water flowing in Fruitland (The Navajo Times 8/28)
Shiprock approves university study on San Juan (The Navajo Times 8/30)

Committee Notices:
Oversight Hearing on "EPA's Gold King Mine Disaster: Examining the Harmful Impacts to Indian Country" (September 16, 2015)
Oversight of the Cause, Response, and Impacts of EPA’s Gold King Mine Disaster (September 16, 2015)
Joint Oversight Hearing on “EPA’s Animas Spill" (September 17, 2015)

Related Stories:
Multiple Capitol Hill hearings set into disaster at Gold King Mine (8/31)
Navajo Nation to reopen irrigation canal after Gold King mine spill (8/28)
EPA releases internal report into Gold King Mine spill disaster (8/27)
Senate Indian Affairs Committee to hold hearing on EPA mine spill (8/26)
Native Sun News: Tribes respond to toxic spill at abandoned mine (8/25)
Navajo Nation remains cautious after spill impacts water system (8/21)
Navajo Nation farmers losing crops amid mine spill concerns (8/18)
Leader of EPA visits Navajo Nation after mine spill in Colorado (8/13)
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)