After toxic water spill in Colorado, Navajo Nation refuses water supply from Animus River
When an investigation led by the EPA caused the Gold King Mine to collapse and spill 3 million gallons of polluted water into the Animus River, many wondered how local farmers and communities would recover.
While the EPA has declared the water is safe to drink, Navajo Nation received a unanimous vote from farmers in Shiprock, New Mexico to keep canals closed for at least a year.
The spill happened on Aug. 5, and farmers know they will lose crops, but don’t want to risk contaminating soil for future generations.
“Our position is better safe than sorry,” said Shiprock Chapter President Duaane “Chili” Yazzie told the Associated Press.
Navajo Nation refuses to use the water because they are concerned about lead and other contaminants being washed down the river.
“Every time a heavy storm hits or the soil is disturbed it can recontaminate the water,” said Tribal President Russell Begaye.
Navajo farmers will abstain for at least a year, but the EPA declares the water is safe for irrigation. Their results are only based on surface testing and do not know what will happen to the quality of water in the next decade.
“Our farms will not last much longer without water, and our resources are depleting,” said Begaye.
The water tanks that were provided by the EPA were rejected by Navajo Nation after tribal officials noticed oil residue in one of the containers. According to the Associated Press, the EPA is looking into the complaint and intends to work with the tribe to remove 13 tanks from the reservation.
EPA spokesman, David Gray says that the EPA is evaluating other ways to deliver water to the tribe. The EPA says that members of the tribe will be reimbursed for the costs of hauling water through their community.
“I am furious that the EPA has placed Navajo Nation into this position,” said Begaye.
According to the Denver Post, the Navajo Nation has harshly criticized the EPA since the aftermath of the mine spill has nearly pushed their community to the brink of economic disaster.
In addition to a lack of water for crops, a water treatment plant on the Utah portion of the reservation will also remain closed until Begaye allows it to start operating again.
While the Navajo Nation will face an immense challenge, some water is still being hauled in to top off a tank so residents will continue to have running water in their homes.