One year has passed since the Environmental Protection Agency caused a discharge of 3 million gallons of toxic water into the Animas River, and no one has been held accountable, although private parties have been criminally prosecuted under similar circumstances in the past.
Now, three entities’ actions might change the resulting narrative that there are two sets of rules, one for people in the private sector, and another for employees of the federal government.
  • In May, the state of New Mexico sued the agency in federal court, along with an EPA contractor and several mining companies, seeking “full and just compensation” for environmental and economic damages in the wake of the EPA’s spill.
  • In July, the Office of the Inspector General for the EPA confirmed that it is conducting a criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine spill due to high “public interest” and inquiry from Congress.
  • On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation filed a lawsuit against the EPA, which states, “After one of the most significant environmental catastrophes in history, the Nation and the Navajo people have yet to have their waterways cleaned, their losses compensated, their health protected or their way of life restored.”
The EPA’s spill has been disastrous for millions of people in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Southern California, who rely on affected waters—contaminated with arsenic, lead mercury, and other toxic metals—for drinking, irrigation, recreation, and employment.  It was reported that at a public comment session shortly after the spill, David Moler, owner of a river-rafting company, asked EPA Regional Director Shaun McGrath, “When can my business be open again?” and “What should I tell my employees?”
The attorney general of the Navajo Nation, Ethel Branch, told CNN that the affected San Juan River “has always been a source of life, of purification, and of healing” for the Navajo, but “now it’s been transformed into something that’s a threat. It’s been pretty traumatic in changing the role of the river in the lives of the people who rely on it.”
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