April 20, 2016, 09:31 am
Adverse effects of Gold King Mine spill still impacting Navajo nation
The importance of the San Juan River to the Navajo cannot be understated. It is a source of economic prosperity for our people but it is also one of the four sacred rivers for the Navajo.
Costs from the spill are mounting. Contamination of the San Juan River takes a profound economic, cultural, and spiritual toll on our people whose daily lives are intricately bound up with the River. The Navajo people already face a daunting unemployment rate of 42%. Farming and ranching are critical means of survival and supporting a family. Yet our subsistence farmers and ranchers watched their crops die and relocated their livestock away from the River at great expense. These families lost crucial income and are still suffering. The loss of a growing season’s worth of corn pollen has interrupted ceremonial practices that bind Navajo families together and keep our traditional way of life intact.
The effects of this disaster will ripple through our communities for years. We have already seen an increase in the number of suicides in the Nation since the toxic spill. The heavy metals released during the Gold King Mine Spill remain at the bottom of our River; they have not been removed. There is a constant fear and threat of exposure to our wildlife, our livestock, and our children. While longer-term health and environmental impacts from the spill are unknown, we know that dangerous metals like the lead and arsenic released in the spill persist in the environment for years.
EPA Administrator McCarthy promised Congress the EPA would work with the Navajo to quickly compensate victims of the spill and accept responsibility for its conduct. That has not happened. The EPA has repeatedly pledged to the Navajo Nation and the Navajo people that it will work with us to ensure fair and effective compensation. Yet every request we’ve made has been met with resistance, delay, and counter-demands. The White House has also been silent, with the president seemingly ignoring calls to assist our people.
Report after report has concluded that the EPA made critical errors in its work at the Gold King Mine, triggering an otherwise avoidable blowout. There is no doubt the EPA is among the responsible parties. The EPA should immediately repair the damage it caused, ensure such damage does not happen again, and it should pledge to compensate for both known and unknown harms. It is the only way the Navajo people can hope to recover from this disaster.
Our hearts go out to the sufferers of the Flint water crisis. We understand what it’s like to face an uncertain future caused by those we expect to protect us. Congress must consider a similar relief fund for the Navajo who have suffered greatly. Our people deserve compensation now. Our people deserve to know that the EPA will address the toxic sludge that is in the River. And our people deserve to know that the dangerous conditions in the mines will be addressed once and for all. The time has long passed for the EPA to make whole the Navajo Nation and all others so devastatingly impacted by the Gold King Mine spill.
Begaye is President of the Navajo Nation.
Thoughts on the Federal Caused Tragedy, If a NON Government person did this they (EPA USFS BLM) would be demanding millions of billions in Fines, up to life in prison for the perpetrators of this man caused tragedy. EPA was warned by locals and ignored them, this was preventable.
Was this done on purpose to harm more western ranchers/farmers/Native Americans and USA Citizens who's lives are tied to the waters of the San Juan River?
Why is the EPA ignoring and acting more like a communist china politburo agency (shift blame to others, no accountability, no sign of helping those they harmed) than an American common sense agency who will protect its citizens?
Why the delay on assistance?
Remember Hurricane Katrina? and these same political and bureaucracy demanded up to impeachment of then Pres. Bush for not acting fast enough to assist the people from a natural disaster, yet we see the Obama Administration doing all they can to ignore and it would seem prevent assistance to the people for purposefully poisoning a main water source in the states of Colorado and New Mexico that effect millions of people.
Why the double standard? Why the Delay and Refusal to assist as the people continue to suffer financially, physically, and economically?