EPA Offers No Apology for Toxic River Spill: Ask Navajo Citizens to Sign Their Future Rights Away


Animus River waters merged into San Juan River on Sunday

Animas River waters merged into San Juan River on Sunday

OLJATO, UTAH — Two community involvement representatives from EPA Region 9, David Yogie and Secody Hubbard, provided an update on the toxic spill of the Animas River that made its way into the San Juan River to Navajo citizens on Monday in Oljato, Utah.

“The EPA is taking this very seriously and it’s working to control this, first and foremost,” Yogie said.

He said two EPA contractors have been sampling the water along the San Juan River with representatives from the Navajo EPA Surface Mining Program.

Four additional contractors were dispatched to support two teams doing sampling at the river. There are also 12 on-scene coordinators, two public information officers, two community health coordinators and 21 employees and contractors from Denver responding to the spill.

No Apologies

Former Navajo Natioin President Dr. Peterson Zah

Former Navajo Natioin President Dr. Peterson Zah

At the Oljato meeting at the Monument Valley Visitors Center, former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah gave some background on the resiliency of the Navajo people, from the Long Walk to the uranium contamination to the disaster of the San Juan River contamination.

“Many years from now, the Navajo people will still be here on our tribal lands,” Dr. Zah said in Navajo. “They keep trying to get rid of us, but we’re still here surving.”

Turning to Yogie, the senior EPA official that reported, Dr. Zah said he was no different than all the other Navajo elders in attendance.

“What I was looking for (from the EPA) was an apology. We didn’t even get one. I wanted to hear from the U.S. government that they were sorry,” Dr. Zah said. “Maybe you should include that in the first part of your presentation at your next meeting.”

EPA Waivers against Future Claims

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is offering immediate reimbursements for damages from the Gold King Mine water contamination in exchange for waiving rights for future claims.

On August 11, the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President received report that EPA representatives were in the Utah communities of Aneth and Oljato to encourage Navajo people to agree to the reimbursements.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said, “The Navajo people need to know that they should not file for reimbursement until the injuries and costs related to the contamination have stopped.”

For individuals who sign the claim, they will not be eligible for claims in the future, if additional injuries or damages arise from the long-term effects of contamination.

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