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Navajo Nation Vows To Hold EPA Accountable As Colorado River Poisoner Identified

Having admitted responsibility for the poisoning of Colorado's Animus River, Mining.com reports The EPA has now been forced to admit that there was 3 milion gallons of toxic wastewater - triple their previous estimates. While EPA leadership held a press conference yesterday taking responsibility, it appears they are pointing the blame finger at the contractor, who they have now chosen to identify as Missouri-based Environmental Restoration which is one of the largest EPA emergency cleanup contractors. It is the main provider for the EPA’s emergency cleanup and rapid response needs in the region that covers Colorado, as well as in several other parts of the country - awarded $381 million in federal contracts since 2007. As the river slowly returns to normal (on the surface), The Navajo Nation, with many residents along the river, declared a state of emergency this week, vowing to hold the EPA fully responsible for its spill, and have demanded that the EPA provide the affected tribes with water until the river is once again usable.

 

The EPA Admits the Colorado River spill was three times bigger than expected... (via OilPrice.com, by Cecilia Jamasmie via Mining.com)

EPA says that about 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater, triple previous estimates, have poured from an old Colorado gold mine into local streams since last week.

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Sunday the spill caused accidentally by one of its clean-up teams working at an old Colorado gold mine has tripled in volume.

 

The leak, containing high concentrations of heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead, is now estimated to have reached about three million gallons of toxic wastewater, triple than originally estimated.

 

According to the first statement released by the EPA, the contaminated water was hiding out behind debris near the Gold King Mine entrance, where the crew was working with heavy machinery. The mine waste poured out into a nearby creek, eventually leading to the Animas River where the spill spread.

 

 

These images, courtesy of the Environmental Protection Agency, show the mouth of the Gold King Mine tunnel (left), and the channeled runoff on the mine dump (right).

 

The discharge was still flowing at the rate of 500 gallons per minute yesterday, four days after the spill began at the Gold King Mine, the EPA added.

 

Image courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

The agency has been diverting the ongoing release into two newly built settling ponds where the waste was being treated with chemicals to lower its acidity and to filter out dissolved solids before being discharged to Cement Creek.

Image courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

The federal unit has also set up a website to provide constant updates on the situation.

 

EPA reiterated the spill does not threaten local sources of drinking water and the main contaminants responsible for the leak’s mustard-like colour are unlikely to be dangerous.

Image courtesy of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 

Still, recreational activity on the affected waterways has been suspended until the orange-coloured plume has fully dissipated.

 

And now The EPA appears to be trying to distance itself from the actual event. As The Wall Street Journal reports, the previously unnamed contractor involved in the spil has now been identified (by the EPA) as Missouri-based Environmental Restoration LLC...

The EPA, which was overseeing the servicing of the mine, had previously said an unnamed outside contractor was using heavy equipment when it accidentally triggered a breach in the abandoned Gold King Mine, letting out wastewater that had built up inside it.

 

“Environmental Restoration LLC was working at the direction at EPA in consultation with the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety,” an EPA official said on Wednesday.

 

...

 

According to various government documents, Environmental Restoration had signed an agreement to provide emergency protection from pollutants from the Gold King Mine, near Durango, Colo., in the southwestern part of the state. The spill has fouled the nearby Animas River, turning its water mustard yellow in the initial several days after the spill on Aug. 5.

 

The money to fund the Gold King Mine cleanup comes out of EPA’s Superfund budget, according to Scott Sherman, a former deputy assistant administrator at EPA during the George W. Bush administration who oversaw Superfund and other waste programs.

 

Environmental Restoration is one of the largest EPA emergency cleanup contractors. It is the main provider for the EPA’s emergency cleanup and rapid response needs in the region that covers Colorado, as well as in several other parts of the country. It worked on the cleanup for some of the highest-profile disasters in recent history, including the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack ground zero cleanup, and the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico spill remediation, according to the company’s website.

 

From October 2007 through this month, Environmental Restoration has been awarded $381 million in federal contracts, according to government procurement data compiled on USAspending.gov. The vast majority—more than $364 million—of that total was for work for the EPA.

Which makes you wonder, when revenues are all spoonfed by the government no matter what, just how 'careful' are you going to be? As we noted yesterday, this disaster was entirely foreseeable.

And, as TheAntiMedia.org reports, The Navajo Nation has vowed to hold The EPA accountable...

The Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency this week after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed they were responsible for not one, but three million gallons of toxic mining wastewater spilled into the Animas River in Colorado. According to the EPA, the contamination is composed of cadmium, arsenic, lead, aluminum, and copper.

 

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye vowed to hold the EPA fully responsible for its spill, saying “The EPA was right in the middle of the disaster, and we intend to make sure the Navajo Nation recovers every dollar it spends cleaning up this mess and every dollar it loses as a result of injuries to our precious Navajo natural resources.” 

 

According to Indian Country Today, “Residents along the San Juan River have been warned to stay away from the waterway. It is closed until further notice and should not be used to water crops or feed animals.”

 

The Navajo Nation has demanded that the EPA provide the affected tribe(s) with water until the river is once again usable. It is currently unclear whether or not the agency will comply with this demand. Civil lawsuits now seem to be the restitution to recover damages from this spill since it is highly unlikely the EPA will pay any upfront fines for the leak, according to a former EPA official.

 

Navajo Nation President Begaye has “instructed Navajo Nation Department of Justice to take immediate action against the EPA to the fullest extent of the law to protect Navajo families and resources.”

 

Other damages to the local recreation economy and ecosystem are expected to add up, though the extent of the damages is not known at this time.

 

This is just the most recent case where Native American land was polluted, not to mention where their basic necessities and rights were violated by the federal government. In many of these instances, little to nothing was done to compensate them for the damage.

 

The Navajo Nation is no stranger to environmental negligence at the hands of the federal government and greedy corporations, which make their money extracting resources from native lands. For decades, uranium was mined from their land. According to the EPA,

 

“Today the mines are closed, but a legacy of uranium contamination remains, including over 500 abandoned uranium mines (AUMs) as well as homes and drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation. Potential health effects include lung cancer from inhalation of radioactive particles, as well as bone cancer and impaired kidney function from exposure to radionuclides in drinking water.”

 

Despite the EPA’s claims to the contrary, this contamination is yet to be legitimately addressed even though the last uranium mines were shut down in 1986. In fact, the uranium industry is still trying to open new mines in or near Navajo land, despite the fact that the mess remains from previous mining operations. The Navajo Nation is still fighting for it to be cleaned up and to attain compensation for the countless victims who have fallen ill from radiation exposure.

 

Currently, Native American Indians face another dire threat to their environment and resources from Big Oil interests and their in-pocket politicians, who are pushing for the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The controversial pipeline is facing heavy opposition from indigenous groups because it would pass through reservation land in the U.S., extracting oil from prized native areas in Canada. While much is made from both the right and left about the pros and cons of the pipeline, these politicians and interest groups have so far disregarded the Native Americans’ concerns about the project.

As Anti-Media concludes...

The bottom line is that there are many environmental problems afflicting Native Americans and their land, and much of the time, these issues are neglected and even sustained by the people who cause them. Most times, complaints about these abuses fall on deaf government ears.

 

The EPA’s toxic spill into the Animas River serves to highlight the continued abuses that indigenous populations in North America have suffered at the hands of governments and moneyed-interests since Europeans first “discovered” the Americas.

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Summing it all up...

It's not illegal when the government does it. pic.twitter.com/TehP7tCYne

— Dean Clancy (@DeanClancy)