Nearly 300 Navajo farmers and ranchers have filed a lawsuit over damages suffered from the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, they’re seeking about $75 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and several private companies.
According to the suit filed last week, the spill devastated livelihoods by wiping out harvests, damaging livestock, and even caused spiritual and emotional distress among tribal members.
Their attorney, Kate Ferlic, says the economic hardships have continued.
"The stigma associated with crops or livestock grown along the San Juan River made the value of those things far less than they should have been … They were unable to sell their crops or their beef," she says.
The lawsuit also accuses the EPA of mishandling its response, deepening the spill’s impacts to farmers and ranchers. All the plaintiffs previously filed claims for compensation with the EPA, but none have yet been settled.
The lawsuit has been consolidated into a separate $2 billion case filed by the Navajo Nation, Utah and New Mexico. The agency and the U.S. Justice Department declined to comment.
Sunday marked the three-year anniversary of the spill caused by an EPA crew that inadvertently dumped 3 million gallons of mine waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers.