By Andrew Topf
Indian tribe says it has yet to be compensated from incident that spilt toxic wastewater into 3 states
The Navajo Nation is taking the EPA to court for a spill of toxic wastewater a year ago from an abandoned Colorado gold mine.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for New Mexico joins another lawsuit initiated by the state of New Mexico against the EPA in May. In that court action, New Mexico sued the EPA, a contractor and two mining companies over the August 2015 breach of the Gold King mine, citing environmental damages and economic harm.
The spill was accidentally triggered when EPA teams called in to inspect seepage at the mine, unleashed a torrent of yellow sludge containing heavy metals including arsenic, mercury and lead. Around a million gallons discharged into a nearby creek, continued to the Animas River, and flowed into river systems in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.The contaminated water was hiding behind debris near the now shut-down Gold King Mine entrance, where the crew was working with heavy machinery, said a statement by the EPA.
According to a court filing quoted by Reuters, the Navajo allege the EPA and other parties "recklessly" burrowed into the mine, "releasing waste into water upstream from the tribe's land."
"One of the Navajo people's most important sources of water for life and livelihood was poisoned with some of the worst contaminants known to man, including lead and arsenic," Navajo Nation said in the 48-page complaint, which names the EPA, contractor Environmental Restoration, Kinross Gold Corp (NYSE:KGC, TSX:K) and Sunnyside Gold Corp.