Navajo Nation among those affected by mine disaster

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The Environmental Protection Agency says the rivers around the Gold King Mine in Colorado are getting back to normal. The agency says the levels of dangerous metals are back to what they were before EPA contractors accidentally spilled millions of gallons of wastewater, turning some rivers and streams a sickly yellow.

The EPA had to explain its response to the disaster today in a Congressional hearing. Among those present and testifying were representatives from the Navajo Nation, which is preparing litigation against the EPA for the accident. The San Juan River in New Mexico, which runs through the nation's lands, was one of several rivers and streams affected by the disaster.

“The area where the water was contaminated impacted about 215 miles of ... really the richest farming area in the Navajo Nation,” says Jackson Slim Brossy, executive director of the nation’s Washington, D.C., office.

The EPA apologized for the spill, advising residents not to use the water after the accident.

“At this time, the EPA and other federal agencies are providing livestock water and hay to the Navajo Nation in response to the spill,” says Jared Blumenfeld, a regional director with the EPA who works with the Navajo Nation. But ranchers had to transport the water themselves, and there were complaints about the quality. Plus, it’s a temporary solution. Blumenfeld says now "the river is back to where it was before the plume hit.”

The Navajo Nation still isn’t convinced and is planning to sue. Meanwhile, the president of the Navajo Nation has openly encouraged residents not to sign disaster claims forms with the federal EPA.