Monday, January 09, 2017 by JD Heyes
The Environmental Protection Agency is very likely the most abusive, over-regulatory, economy-killing bureaucracy within the federal government. Now, I’m adding irresponsible to that list.
Longtime readers of Natural News will recall the Gold King Mine spill in Colorado in August 2015, which saw more than 3 million gallons of contaminated water rife with mining chemicals and heavy metals leach into surrounding major waterways and tributaries. This disaster was created by a contracting crew working on behalf of the EPA.
It took legal action and over a year in court to force the agency to pony up for the damage caused by the spill. But as usual, the EPA continues to skirt is obligation to repay all the monies owed to interested parties as well as clean up after itself, like the agency would require any private company to do.
One of the injured and aggrieved parties is the Native American Navajo Nation, which is accusing the Obama administration of refusing to clean up the damage caused by the EPA, the Mexico Star is reporting.
The August 2015 spill saw contaminated water from the mine spill into the nearby Animas River, then leach into the San Juan River, which flows through about 200 miles of Navajo territory. In addition to tainting Navajo lands, the spill also tainted waterways in three states: Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.
After being exposed to the air, iron sulfide in the contaminated water formed a sulfuric acid, which turned the water a bright mustard-orange color.
“The Navajo Nation’s water supply has been severely compromised as a result of the spill,” said Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch. “Tragically, we won’t know the full extent of the impacts the heavy metals released in the spill will have on our people for some time because those impacts generally only become observable in the long term.”
She added that the Navajo government has already spent millions of dollars responding to the crisis, adding that just to mitigate the damage to the nation’s water supply—and “not to mention long-term health needs and other impacts”—it is expected to cost in excess of $100 million to secure alternative water supplies, more water treatment and monitor the water well into the future.
But none of that matters much to Obama’s EPA.
Earlier in December, Navajo Nation attorneys submitted a claim to the agency for more than $160 million, in order to cover costs that the nation has spent in the aftermath of the spill. The amount requested also factored in cost estimates of long-term medical care, as well as monitoring of soil, groundwater, crops and livestock on Navajo Nation lands. In addition, the amount requested would also cover expected costs for the building and operation of an alternative water supply, as well as treatment systems for areas affected by the spill.
And while the EPA has already admitted responsibility for the spill, it has rejected all but $602,000 of those claims on the grounds that, on Aug. 19—two weeks after the spill—the agency tested the waters in the San Juan River and allegedly found metal concentrations had gone back to “pre-event” levels.
That, of course, says nothing about the long-term damage done to groundwater, soil and other natural resources. The immediate traces of heavy metals from the spill were gone, so as far as the EPA is concerned, that’s the end of it.
“The EPA’s evaluation of costs is consistent with the agency’s legal authorities and the requirements under the Superfund,” an EPA spokesperson told VOA, as cited by the Mexico Star. “The agency can only reimburse documented and allowable incurred response costs submitted by government partners.”
In May, New Mexico also filed suit against the EPA, alleging injuries from the spill, as well as the state of Colorado. Utah is also considering a suit against EPA.
Branch said that Navajo Nation plans to appeal the EPA’s rejection of its claims before the early January 2017 filing deadline. She also expressed her disappointment in President Obama.
“The Obama administration’s response has reinforced the message that Native lives don’t matter,” Branch said. “And the EPA has focused their energy on minimizing potential legal liability to themselves, rather than ensuring cleanup and protection of the environment.”