The Navajo Nation, which along with Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, have been affected by the spill of 3 million gallons of tainted water from the Gold King Mine, was the first entity to announce that it intends to take legal action against the federal government for the spill.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reportedly caused the spilled while it was working to close the mine when it breached a wall, releasing the water.
CNN reported that several political leaders have expressed outrage at the EPA spill and declared states of emergency. The spill will have a destructive impact on the ecosystems fed by the San Juan River that the Navajo culture depends on, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said at a community meeting this weekend.
“They are not going to get away with this,” Begaye said. “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 also instructed the Navajo Nation Department of Justice to take action against the EPA.
The EPA said it is helping provide water delivery to areas where water sources are contaminated, and the Navajo Nation utility company is sourcing its water from wells not affected.
"Navajo officials have reacted quickly, assessing their well fields and drinking and irrigation water intake systems and issuing a precautionary 'do not use' public service announcement regarding water from potentially impacted sources," the EPA said in a statement this week.
One area of concern is Shiprock, New Mexico, one of the largest farming communities for the Navajo Nation. The San Juan River is the main supply for irrigation in that area.
According to the EPA, the spill occurred when one of its teams was using heavy equipment to enter the Gold King Mine, a suspended mine north of Durango. Instead of entering the mine and beginning the process of pumping and treating the contaminated water inside as planned, the team accidentally caused it to flow into the nearby Animas.