Navajo Nation sues EPA following toxic spill

[JURIST] The Navajo Nation on Tuesday filed suit [complaint] against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] alleging that water flowing from a punctured mine in Colorado was toxic and “damaged the Nation’s environment, people, and economy.” Specifically, the 48-page complaint alleges that the toxic wastewater contaminated the San Juan River, a river on which the Nation has a “[u]nique dependence,” and the contamination negatively affected the production of crops, feeding of cattle, culture and economy of the Nation. The complaint also alleges that the operators of the mines hired by the EPA, Gold King Mines Corporation, “continuously neglected its obligations to control the discharge of wastewater from its properties and to operate the treatment facility to protect [their] water” and that the damages were “preventable and foreseeable.”

This is the latest in a number of cases naming the EPA as a defendant. Earlier this year the state of New Mexico filed suit [Reuters report] against the EPA concerning the toxic wastewater from the Colorado punctured mine, and it is likely that Colorado and Utah will follow suit. In April residents of Flint, Michigan, represented by attorney Michael Pitt, filed an administrative complaint [JURIST report] against the EPA for negligence in handling the Flint water crisis. The suit alleged that the EPA was notified of contamination in the Flint water supply long before acting in any substantive way to mitigate the harm or properly investigate the complaints. As a result of their inaction, the residents of Flint allege they were subjected to lead in their water supply for over a year causing physical injury to themselves and their property.

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