Category Archives: Navajo Natoin

Ranchers, farmers look for alternative water sources after Gold King Mine spill

Officials with Shiprock Chapter,NMSU extension office deliver water to livestock owners

By Noel Lyn Smith and Hannah Grover The Daily Times
UPDATED:   08/11/2015 10:18:12 PM MDT1 COMMENT

From left, Richard Root and Melvin Jones, both equipment operators for the Shiprock Chapter, fill troughs and barrels of water on Tuesday for Sarah Frank,

From left, Richard Root and Melvin Jones, both equipment operators for the Shiprock Chapter, fill troughs and barrels of water on Tuesday for Sarah Frank, a Shiprock resident who relied on the San Juan River for her water. The Gold King Mine spill has forced her to seek alternative sources of water for her livestock. (Alexa Rogals — The Daily Times)
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SHIPROCK — With the Animas and San Juan rivers still off limits, local ranchers and farmers are looking for alternative ways to get water for their livestock and crops.

Restrictions on the rivers were put into effect after toxic metals flowed from a mine north of Silverton, Colo., into the Animas River and then into the San Juan River.

In response to the situation, officials with the Shiprock Chapter started hauling water to residents who need it for their livestock.

Melvin Jones, an equipment operator at the chapter house, delivered water Monday and Tuesday to residents in Shiprock.

“There are quite a few people on the list right now, so we’ll probably be hauling water all week and into next week,” he said.

Jimmy Lujan looks over the field at his farm in Upper Fruitland on Tuesday. The crops at the 24-acre farm have already started to wither.

Jimmy Lujan looks over the field at his farm in Upper Fruitland on Tuesday. The crops at the 24-acre farm have already started to wither. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

On Tuesday, he delivered water in a 1,000-gallon tank to Sarah Frank’s residence in southeast Shiprock. As Jones filled her large storage tank with water, Frank removed lids from three steel drums and an assortment of plastic containers to hold the remainder of the water. Frank’s residence is less than 10 miles south of the river, which was the main source of water for her 30 sheep and 13 lambs.

“They really drink water when the grass is dry,” she said.

Frank said she asked chapter house officials for help because she was worried about her sheep.

“They said they would help to haul water. I was so glad to hear that,” Frank said, adding that the delivered water could last up to four weeks.

Meanwhile, in Upper Fruitland, the corn at Jimmy and Lucy Lujan’s 24-acre farm had already started to wither on Tuesday from lack of water, and the couple fears they have lost a crop of newly planted alfalfa. Lucy Lujan said she had hoped to sell the corn to pay for her grandson’s tuition at San Juan College.

“You don’t realize how much you rely on irrigation water,” she said.

Since the plume of contaminated water flooded the San Juan River, the Lujans have been using tap water for their small herd of sheep and to irrigate their crops. The couple said they have always had plenty of water, but now they are afraid they will lose all of their crops this season.

Tommy Bolack relies on both the Animas and San Juan rivers to irrigate his 12,000-acre B-Square Ranch in Farmington. He learned about the Gold King Mine spill a day and a half before the plume reached Farmington and turned off the ditches on the southern portion of his property, which is irrigated by the Animas River.

“It’s best to let that water go by,” he said.

Early warnings helped farmers prevent crop contamination, said D’rese Sutherland, one of the owners of Sutherland Farms.

Richard Root, an equipment operator for the Shiprock Chapter, fills up a trough with water for livestock at a residence in Shiprock.

Richard Root, an equipment operator for the Shiprock Chapter, fills up a trough with water for livestock at a residence in Shiprock. (Alexa Rogals — The Daily Times)

“We’ll be fine for a few days,” she said, adding that rains and cloud cover have helped the crops on the 80-acre farm north of Aztec.

But, she added, “If we don’t get water on some crops within the next week, we will start losing some.”

Sutherland said she has been in contact with the New Mexico State University San Juan County Extension Office to secure emergency water supplies.

The extension office started delivering irrigation water Tuesday afternoon, said agriculture agent Bonnie Hopkins. On Tuesday, about 20,000 gallons of water were delivered to farmers and about 10,000 gallons were delivered to livestock owners, she said.

The office can deliver water to farmers and ranchers who are not on the Navajo Nation. Residents can call 505-334-9496 to get on the water delivery list. Farmers with market vegetables and fruits will be prioritized because their livelihoods depend on the produce.

Four Corners Economic Development will also host a public meeting at 2 p.m. today at the Farmington Civic Center, 200 W. Arrington St., to discuss the county’s irrigation options with officials from the extension office, the state Office of the State Engineer and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and nsmith@daily-times.com. Follow her @nsmithdt on Twitter.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.

The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth

This is an international declaration, and law in the making, that is very much relevant to the EPA disaster. One of the approaches to identifying claims is standards. This is one. It is also Navajo fundamental law.

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INSIDE JOB: EPA MAY HAVE INTENTIONALLY POLLUTED ANIMAS RIVER

INSIDE JOB: EPA MAY HAVE INTENTIONALLY POLLUTED ANIMAS RIVER

EPA spill benefits Obama’s war against American energy
 http://www.infowars.com/inside-job-epa-may-have-intentionally-polluted-animas-river/

by KIT DANIELS | INFOWARS.COM | AUGUST 12, 2015

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Before the EPA polluted the Animas River, a retired geologist revealed the agency was likely looking for an excuse to build a multi-million dollar water treatment plant in nearby Silverton, Colo.

The geologist, Dave Taylor, wrote a July 30 editorial that predicted the EPA’s plugging plan, which ultimately led to the Aug. 6 spill, would fail and the agency would likely use the failure to seek “superfunding.”

“The ‘grand experiment’ in my opinion will fail,” he wrote. “And guess what [EPA representative] Mr. Hestmark will say then? ‘Gee, Plan A didn’t work so I guess we will have to build a treatment plant at a cost to taxpayers of $100 million to $500 million…’”

Here’s the editorial in full as it appeared in the Silverton Standard & The Miner local newspaper, with thanks to Zero Hedge:

20150812_EPA_0

“The letter detailed verbatim, how EPA officials would foul up the Animas River on purpose in order to secure superfund money,” the Gateway Pundit reported. “If the [nearby] Gold King mine was declared a superfund site it would essentially kill future development for the mining industry in the area.”

“The Obama EPA is vehemently opposed to mining and development.”

Navajo Nation leader rejects EPA no-sue waivers

August 12, 2015 10:29PM ET

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to stop handing out forms to Navajo citizens impacted by the Animas River spill that would effectively waive an individual’s rights to sue the agency for any future damages caused by contaminated water released from an abandoned mine upstream in Colorado last week.

“The people that live up and down the river, the Navajo people, many do not speak English, and those that do may not comprehend legal language,” Begaye said.

 Impact of spill on Navajo Nation 1:54
Al Jazeera America News | August 12, 2015

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Around 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater spilled into the Animas River from an abandoned gold mine in southern Colorado last week after an accident caused by the EPA. The agency says the water contains lead, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals, but has still not disclosed what impact the spill will have on river users downstream, like those in the Navajo Nation. However, Begaye says officials are already trying to preempt future lawsuits by taking advantage of Navajo citizens.

“My interpretation as president of the Navajo Nation is the EPA is trying to minimize the amount of compensation that the people deserve,” said Begaye. “They want to close these cases and they don’t want more compensation to come later.”

The EPA did not return requests for comment.

Claims for damage, death or injury caused by a federal employee’s negligence are covered under Standard Form 95, but the form also states that any payments made are final.

“They’re saying if we pay you $500 for buying hay for your cattle, and you sign your name here, that’s all you’re going to get,” said Begaye. “Next week if you find something else that comes up because of the contamination and maybe your livestock may be injured, then we can’t pay you because you waived your right.”

The Navajo Nation has declared a state of emergency and is planning lawsuits against the owner of the Gold King Mine, where the sludge originated, and the EPA for causing the spill. Navajo Nation officials are working around the clock on contingency plans, including drastic measures to protect farm and ranch livelihoods.

“We could ask all the owners if they could get their animals and bring them to the rodeo grounds and we could put them in pens,” said Alvis Kee, manager of the Upper Fruitland Chapter House. “We could get stock tanks with water, we could get the hay or whatever feed they need and to bring that over and provide it so they can insure that their livestock do not go to the river.”

Gold King mine

Yellow mine waste water from the Gold King Mine collects in a holding pool.
Allen Schauffler / AL Jazeera

Other communities along the Animas are making their own plans. In Aztec, City Manager Josh Rays says authorities are primarily concerned with getting drinking water to residents who use wells instead of the municipal system.

“We have roughly 73 million gallons of untreated water in reserve,” Rays said. “We have another three or four million gallons in treated water in reserve, so we have sufficient water supply for 30 to 45 days without having to access new water sources.”

For the moment, Aztec is preparing for up to six months without access to the Animas. After that, Rays says that water will have to be trucked in.

“We just don’t know how long this is going to last,” Kee said. “We’re hoping for the best, but we’re starting to plan for the worst, and that’s all we can do at this stage.”

Navajo Nation Mourning, Pleading for Help After Toxic Mine Spill Contaminates River

Navajo Nation Mourning, Pleading for Help After Toxic Mine Spill Contaminates Rivers

Aug 11, 2015, 2:48 PM ET
PHOTO: Kalyn Green of Durango, Colo. stands on the edge of the Animas River, Aug. 6, 2015.

 

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 The Navajo Nation is mourning and pleading for help as clean storage water is depleting, after toxic spill from a mine has contaminated water flowing down the Animas River in Colorado into the San Juan River through Utah and New Mexico.

The spill happened Friday when a team of Environmental Protection Agency workers accidentally released 3 million gallons of wastewater containing heavy metals, including lead and arsenic, from the Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colorado, the agency said.

The Colorado Department of Public Health said Tuesday evening that the concentration of contaminants “continues to decrease” and the “department does not anticipate adverse health effects from incidental or limited exposure to metals detected in the water.

Though EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said at a news conference today that the agency’s slow response was out of caution, Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said the slow response is frustrating the Navajo people, who are “weeping every day” and in “dire need of clean water,” not only for drinking, but also to sustain their organic farms and ranches.

 Three Million Gallons of Contaminated Water Turns River Orange in Colorado

 The Latest: Spill Prompts New Mexico to Declare Emergency

 Residents Demand Health Answers as Mine Spill Fouls Rivers

 “Our soul is hurting,” Begaye told ABC News today. “I meet people daily that weep when they see me, asking me, ‘How do I know the water will be safe?’ The Animas River and the San Juan rivers are our lifelines. Water is sacred to us. The spirit of our people is being impacted.”

 PHOTO: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye makes an announcement on Aug. 8, 2015 about the Navajo Nation response to the release of mine waste into the Animas River which has impacted the Navajo Nation water supply.

Rick Abasta/Navajo Nation
PHOTO: Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye makes an announcement on Aug. 8, 2015 about the Navajo Nation response to the release of mine waste into the Animas River which has impacted the Navajo Nation water supply.

 He explained that “basic drinking water” is becoming scarce as clean storage water is depleting more rapidly than expected.

“Bottled water is becoming scarce, and my people want to know what we can drink after the clean supply runs out,” Begaye said. “We’re hauling water from wells outside the disaster area and using our own Navajo Nation funds to run these trunks back and forth. We desperately need help from outside to get good quality, safe drinking water.”

PHOTO: People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 6, 2015, in water colored from a mine waste spill.

Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP Photo
PHOTO: People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 6, 2015, in water colored from a mine waste spill.

Additionally, farmers and ranchers will be losing thousands of dollars in revenue if they can’t find a way to irrigate their crops and provide drinking water to their cattle and livestock, Begaye said.

“We are in the middle of farming season, which is only four to five months of the whole year, and farmers are baking me to help them save their crops, many of which are not fully ripe yet,” he said. “The revenue from these crops is what our farmers need to live off for the rest of the year, so without irrigation water, they are doomed.

“Our ranchers, which have cattle, sheep, horses, goats and different livestock also graze and drink along the river,” Begaye added. “But right now, all the cattle are penned up, and these ranchers have to haul their water in, which they’re not prepared to do.”

PHOTO: The Animas River flows through the center of Durango, Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

Brent Lewis/Denver Post/Getty Images
PHOTO: The Animas River flows through the center of Durango, Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

Begaye explained that the Navajo are well known for their organic crops and meat, but now with the river contamination, farmers and ranchers are scared they can’t guarantee their consumers that their produce and products are going to be 100 percent organic.

Navajo tourism is also being affected because business owners of resorts and boating companies by the rivers now cannot fully operate until the water is cleared, the Navajo president added.

Begaye said the EPA sent two personnel — one who could help with any health issues and another who could help with water testing — but he said the Navajo Nation has yet to receive help from the EPA to get drinking water and more specific answers about what’s exactly in the orange-yellow waters now flowing in their sacred rivers.

PHOTO: Officials from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and a retired aquatic biologist check on cages with Rainbow trout fingerlings on Friday Aug. 7, 2015, on the Animas River in Durango, Colo.

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald/AP
PHOTO: Officials from Colorado Parks & Wildlife and a retired aquatic biologist check on cages with Rainbow trout fingerlings on Friday Aug. 7, 2015, on the Animas River in Durango, Colo.

Administrator McCarthy said today she understands the “frustration” but that the EPA has “researchers and scientists working around the clock” and is hustling to provide “alternative water supplies.”

She added there have not been any reported cases of “anyone’s health being compromised” and that the “EPA is taking full responsibility to ensure that the spill is cleaned up.”

McCarthy also mentioned that she expected there to be lawsuits against the EPA, and Begaye said in a news release Sunday that he planned to take legal action against the agency.

PHOTO: As the Animas River begins to recede it reveals a sludge left behind by the Gold King Mine spillage just north of Durango Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald/AP
PHOTO: As the Animas River begins to recede it reveals a sludge left behind by the Gold King Mine spillage just north of Durango Colo. on Aug. 7, 2015.

“To recover from this from this will take a while,” Begaye told ABC News. “For our river to recover, it may take decades. But our people have faced disaster before, and as a nation, we’ll work together and do the best we can. As a nation of prayer, we are asking for prayers for our people right now, and I’d also just like to thank anyone who has reached out to us to volunteer help.”