Farmers, Ranchers Desperate For Help After Animas River Mine Spill
Clean storage water continues to deplete after Friday's toxic mine spill which contaminated water flowing down the Animas River in Colorado into the San Juan River through Utah and New Mexico. Now the Navajo Nation is pleading for help.
The Colorado Department of Public Health said last night that they don't anticipate "adverse health effects from incidental or limited exposure to metals" detected in the water. However, the EPA's slow response is frustrating the Navajo people, who are "weeping every day" and are in "dire need of clean water" for drinking and to sustain their farms and ranches, says Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye.
"Our soul is hurting," says Begaye. "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."
Begaye also explained that bottled water is becoming scarce, and the Navajo are having to haul water from wells outside the disaster area with their own funds in order to have access to clean, safe drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will also lose thousands of dollars in revenue if they're unable to irrigate their crops and provide livestock with drinking water.
"We are in the middle of farming season, which is only 4 to 5 months of the whole year, and farmers are baking [sic] 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...Right now, all the cattle are penned up, and these ranchers have to haul their water in, which they're not prepared to do."
Navajo tourism has also been affected since businesses now cannot fully operate until the contaminated water is cleared.
EPA administrator Gina McCarthy understands the Navajo Nation's frustration and says the EPA is "taking full responsibility to ensure that the spill is cleaned up." She also mentioned there have not been any reported cases of "anyone's health being compromised."