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Why this Matters: This spill was devastating, contaminating 200 miles of river on Navajo lands — farmers and water utilities had to stop drawing from those rivers. The Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement: “The Gold King Mine blowout damaged entire communities and ecosystems in the Navajo Nation. We pledged to hold those who caused or contributed to the blowout responsible, and this settlement is just the beginning.” The federal government should now own up to its obligation to make up for the suffering its contractor caused the Navajo Nation and its people.
A Long Legal Battle
After the spill, the EPA declared Gold King and 47 other mining sites in the area a Superfund cleanup district. Sunnyside Gold Corp. denied liability for the accident, arguing that it didn’t own the Gold King Mine when it was in operation, and therefore it didn’t cause the waste spill. The settlement did not force the corporation to admit liability or wrongdoing for the spill, but Sunnyside agreed to it “as a matter of practicality to eliminate the costs and resources needed to continue to defend against ongoing litigation,” the company’s director of reclamation operations told the Associated Press. In addition to the $10 million, Sunnyside will continue to work with the local community to purify the region’s water.
The tribe also made claims against the EPA and its contractors, but these claims remain pending. In addition, 300 individual tribal members also have pending claims for a separate lawsuit. The EPA argued that the water quality returned to pre-spill levels, but New Mexico officials and tribal leaders alike found that heavy metals had coagulated in the river sediment. During heavy rains or snowmelt, this sediment got stirred up and seeped back into the water.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer “Glacier blood,” or “watermelon snow,” is sweeping across the Alps, and researchers are eager to survey the snow to figure out what’s responsible for the mysterious phenomenon—the culprit: algal blooms. A new study has found that the same algae that cause dreaded red tide are now blooming en masse on mountains worldwide. […]
One more of the Trump administration’s rollbacks will meet its demise as EPA Administrator Michael Regan and the Biden administration are planning to reinstate protections for many marshes, streams, and wetlands — expanding again the coverage of the Clean Water Act under the “Waters of the U.S.” or “WOTUS” rule.
Why This Matters: Since the late 1700s, 221 million acres of wetlands have been drained in the U.S. for agricultural use. This development has had severe consequences, including fertilizer and pollution runoff threatening drinking water for millions of people.
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