FEMA Denies Navajo Nation Request for Aid in Mine Spill Recovery

San Juan River photo
“I will continue to fight for my people” – Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye

Published September 5, 2015

WINDOW ROCK, ARIZONA—Three days after Navajo Nation President requested aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for recovery funds from the August 5 mine spill that released three million gallons of toxic waste in Colorado, the federal agency denied the request on Friday.

Related: Environment Activist Erin Brockovich to Help Raise Awareness Of Devastation Caused By Mine Spill

August spill was caused by a subcontractor working for the EPA that accidentally released the toxic waste into the Animus River from the Gold King Mine, near Durango, Colorado. The toxic waste made its way into the San Juan River that flows into the Navajo Indian Reservation.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye

FEMA denied the request because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already been assisting in the recovery, according to FEMA Administrator W. Craig Fugate.

To make matters worse, the EPA informed the Navajo Nation on Friday it would begin to remove water tanks that have been providing fresh water to the livestock. The Navajo Nation must now rely on the Bureau of Indian Affairs that has committed to fill two water tanks until the end of September.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye released the following statement later Friday, September 4, 2015:

“We are extremely frustrated with the news that both FEMA and the U.S. EPA have declined our urgent requests to continue assistance to the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. EPA caused this entire disaster, they have harmed the people, the water and the land. I appreciated the fact U.S. EPA took responsibility and I was hoping for the U.S. EPA to prove to the Navajo Nation they are willing to hold themselves accountable. This action clearly shows otherwise.

For years, we have consistently been at the receiving end of toxic spills and contamination with no adequate relief as the United States Government and Private Companies became wealthy off of the natural resources of the Navajo Nation.

This is not the end but the beginning as I will continue to fight for my people.”

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