Celebrity environmental activist Erin Brockovich toured farms along the San Juan River and spoke at two Navajo Nation high schools Thursday, promising to bring national attention to the August 5 spill of 3 million gallons of mine wastewater into the Animas River upstream of the San Juan.
Brockovich called on the federal government to build a water-testing lab for the Navajo Nation, to clean up the hundreds of abandoned mines above Silverton, Colo., whose tailing piles wash into the Animas, and to resume delivering clean water to affected chapters.
She called the USEPA’s accidental breach of a dam that caused the spill “careless and thoughtless.”
“Shame on the USEPA!” she cried.
EPA press officer Melissa Harrison did not return a phone call by deadline.
The canal system that feeds farms in Shiprock and Tse Daa Kaan chapters has been closed since the spill approached Tse Daa Kaan on August 8, leaving farmers in those chapters without water for their crops.
Although the Navajo Nation’s own environmental protection agency announced on Aug. 20 that the water was back to normal levels of heavy metals and usable for irrigation, Shiprock and Tse Daa Kaan chapters have voted not to open the head gates, believing the water is still contaminated. Downstream Gadii’Ahi is using a pump to get water into its own canal system, which is connected to that of Shiprock and Tse Daa Kaan.
Upper Fruitland, Nenahnezad and San Juan chapters have their own canal system and have been using the water since President Russell Begaye lifted the state of emergency for those chapters last week at the request of chapter officials.