The Navajo Nation has announced that it will be seeking legal action by filing a $160 million claim for the past and current damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.
Back in August 2015, the Gold King Mine situated near Silverton, Colorado was the source of a toxic wastewater spill.
The environmental disaster was caused by an overspill of the toxic waters determined by the accidental destruction of the plug holding them.
As such, about 3 million gallons of tailings and mine waste water leaked into the Animas River tributary, Cement Creek.
The area of the spill was declared a disaster zone with affected waterways spreading to New Mexico, Colorado and Utah municipalities and the Navajo Nation.
The EPA or the United States Environmental Protection Agency has taken responsibility for the disaster as their workers were the ones to have released the tap.
Now, after more than a year has passed since the environmental disaster, the Navajo Nation will be filing a lawsuit.
The decision was announced on Monday in a press release issued by the Navajo Nation Department of Justice.
With a $160 million claim, the case will be filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act. This will allow them to sue the public authority responsible for the spill.
The Navajos will be seeking justice for the past and ongoing damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill as its effects are still very much present.
The Nations’ lawyers from the Hueston Hennigan LLP will be submitting the request and carrying out the lawsuit.
Navajo reservation San Juan River-based communities are amongst those affected by the heavy metal toxic waste spill.
Ethel Branch, the Navajo Nation Attorney General, went to comment and explain the tribe’s reasons behind the $160 million claim.
Branch stated that the spill changed the San Juan River from a “protector and life-giver” to an on-going “threat”.
This may be a reference to the fact that the Navajos depended on the river in both a cultural and in its daily function. Its waters were used by both people, animals, and for their crops.
The lawsuit and its corresponding claims maintain that the disaster affected the Navajo Nation’s ceremonial, spiritual, and cultural practices.
The Navajo Nation first sued both the EPA and several other parties held responsible in the spill back in August.
As the EPA claimed responsibility, the tribe asked for a $3.2 million sum that would cover expenses. In the new claim announced yesterday, the Navajos are once again asking for the as yet to reimbursed sum.
They are also asking for an additional sum of $159 million that should cover additional damages which would target a larger variety of post-spill actions.
This would include long-term groundwater and ecological monitoring, additional water supplies and treatments. Livestock and agricultural assessments and cultural preservation will also be included, to name just a few such protection measures.
With the river being a very central aspect of the lives of the Navajos, its members will also be beneficiating from certain post-spill health monitoring.
The letter also stated that the Navajo Nation way of life has been impacted as the spill disrupted their hozho principle.
This principle encompasses order, balance, and beauty for the Navajos.
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