Anger on rise over EPA Animas River mine spill

Tensions mount after an accidental spill of toxic chemicals resulting from an attempt by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up the Gold King Mine near the Animus River in Colorado. Fox News reports that New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez and the Navajo Indian Nation are furious not only with the EPA’s delay in notifying them of the disaster, but also due to the likelihood of long term ecological damage.

While acknowledging the possibility of long-term damage, EPA Region 8 director Shaun McGrath said that long-term monitoring would be needed due to runoff from storms would force pollutants back into the water. Over the weekend, New Mexico Governor Susan Martinez reviewed the devastation and was shocked at what she saw.

The magnitude of it, you can’t even describe it, she told Fox News. It’s like when I flew over the fires, your mind sees something it’s not ready or adjusted to see.

While warnings were issued for people to have their water tested prior to showering, cooking or drinking, private wells will be tested by the EPA and New Mexico’s Environmental Department so as to screen out any pollutants from the Animas River spill. This is of particular concern to farmers and ranchers who live along the river since they depend on the Animas for their water supply and maybe displaced resulting from the spill’s effects.

The Navajo Indian tribe is outraged stating the agency will not get away with this and says they will sue the EPA for the mine waste since it will affect their community when it reaches Lake Powell in Arizona. Navajo Nation president Russell Begaye is quoted as stating:

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, Begaye said. I have 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.

Navajos are particularly sensitive to water contamination. Fox News reveals during July 16, 1979, is when the Churchrock uranium mill spill occurred. The tribe experienced detrimental effects of uranium waste spill resulting from a failed Gallup, NM dam discharging 1,100 tons of solid radioactive mill waste and approximately 93 million U.S. gallons of acidic and radioactive tailings solution into a nearby river tributary. It is alleged that the amount of radiation discharged during the event exceeded radiation levels experienced at Three Mile Island.

It is good the EPA is owning up to its responsibility during this affair. But the fact that the agency attempted to clean up the Gold King Mine in lieu of spills that have occurred there in the past should have been reason enough not to attempt to straighten out what was there. I am sure at some point environmentalists will lay blame, as they always do, on humans for this catastrophe stating that if the mine wasn’t there this incident wouldn’t have happened. I also recall the backlash against British Petroleum when an oil spill occurred in the Gulf of New Mexico when one of the company’s oil rigs caught fire and exploded. Yet not a peep of concern or even condemnation of the EPA on the part of President Obama or environmentalists for the federal bureaucracy’s mishap.