Quantcast

Erin Brockovich Stands With Navajo Nation, Accuses EPA of Lying About Colorado's Toxic Mine Waste Spill

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, responsible for the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history, accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of lying about how much toxic wastewater spilled into the Animas river from a Colorado abandoned mine.

She made the statements on Tuesday during a visit to the Navajo Nation—the country's largest American Indian reservation—while she met with Navajo leaders and farmers and spoke to a group of high school students.

"They did not tell the truth about the amount. There were millions and millions of gallons," Brockovich said, expressing shock at the agency's actions leading up to the spill and its response afterward.

A mining and safety team working on behalf of the EPA said that a million gallons of mine waste was spilled from the abandoned Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado in early August. However, a few days later, the EPA revised their estimate, saying it was likely three times as high as originally estimated. Downstream communities declared states of emergency and the Navajo Nation vowed to take action against the EPA.

"Uncertainty lingers over the long-term dangers to public health and the environment from the spill, which contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah," reports the AP. "EPA says the threat has eased, allowing treatment plants to start drawing water from the rivers again and ending warnings against recreational activities. But Navajo leadership is skeptical."

Leaders of the tribe went to the Gold King Mine to investigate just days after the spill. They believe even the 3 million gallon estimate is too low. The tribe is doing its own water and sediment testing. In the meantime, some irrigation systems have remained off, leaving thousands of acres of crops without water for weeks.

"It's a terrible disaster, and unfortunately it's a situation we see playing itself out not only on the Navajo Nation, but across the United States of America," Brockovich said, referring to pollution and lax enforcement.

"You are the future and you will be the answers," she told a gathering of high school students. A series of Congressional hearings investigating the spill began yesterday. Republicans in the House and Senate said that EPA officials "have withheld documents that could explain what went wrong."

But not everyone believes the EPA is to blame for the spill. Lauren Pagel, policy director of the environmental group Earthworks, says we need to hold the mining industry accountable. She spoke yesterday at the House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing regarding the spill.

"The real problem is the 500,000 abandoned and inactive hardrock mines littering our nation that may cost more than $50 billion to clean up with no dedicated funding to pay for it," says Pagel. "And we’re creating new, perpetually polluting mines every year. The result? 40 percent of the headwaters of western watersheds are polluted by mining.

"Blaming the EPA for the Animas River mine waste disaster is like blaming the fire department for kicking down your door to put out your house fire. After you ignore the fire marshall's warnings. And cut the fire department's budget."

Pagel argues that there are more "mine waste time bombs" to come unless we make hardrock miners pay "a mine cleanup fee like coal miners have for decades" and stop exempting them from environmental laws like the Clean Water Act.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Colorado Governor Drinks Water From Animas River After Historic Mine Waste Spill

AP Exclusive: Fracking Boom Responsible for 175 Million Gallons of Toxic Wastewater Spilled Since 2009

Will Fracking Be the Demise of Chaco Canyon National Historical Park?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A roller coaster on the Jersey Shore flooded after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Hurricane_Sandy_New_Jersey_Pier.jpg: Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen / U.S. Air Force / New Jersey National Guard / CC BY 2.0

New Jersey will be the first state in the U.S. to require builders to take the climate crisis into consideration before seeking permission for a project.

Read More
The Director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu speaks on Jan. 26 during a press briefing on studying the 2019-nCoV coronavirus and developing a vaccine to prevent it. Roman Balandin / TASS / Getty Images

Editor's note: The coronavirus that started in Wuhan has sickened more than 4,000 people and killed at least 100 in China as of Jan. 27, 2020. Thailand and Hong Kong each have reported eight confirmed cases, and five people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the illness. People are hoping for a vaccine to slow the spread of the disease.

Read More
Sponsored
Healthline ranks Samoas, seen above, as the 11th healthiest Girl Scout Cookie. brian / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Nancy Schimelpfening

  • Nutrition experts say healthy eating is about making good choices most of the time.
  • Treats like cookies can be eaten in moderation.
  • Information like total calories, saturated fat, and added sugars can be used to compare which foods are relatively healthier.
  • However, it's also important to savor and enjoy what you're eating so you don't feel deprived.

Yes, we know. Cookies aren't considered a "healthy" food by any stretch of the imagination.

Read More
Actress Jane Fonda is arrested during the "Fire Drill Friday" Climate Change Protest on Oct. 25, 2019 in Washington, DC. John Lamparski / Getty Images

When you see an actor in handcuffs, they're usually filming a movie. But when Jane Fonda, Ted Danson, Sally Field, and other celebrities were arrested in Washington, D.C., last fall, the only cameras rolling were from the news media.

Read More
A solitary Dungeness crab sits in the foreground, at low tide on an overcast day. The crabs' shells are dissolving because of ocean acidification on the West Coast. Claudia_Kuenkel / iStock / Getty Images

As the Pacific Ocean becomes more acidic, Dungeness crabs, which live in coastal areas, are seeing their shells eaten away, according to a new study commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Read More