“I have instructed Navajo Nation Department of Justice to take immediate action against the EPA to the fullest extent of the law to protect Navajo families and resources,” he said. “They’re not going to get away with this.”

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez visited a portion of the contaminated river in Farmington over the weekend. “The magnitude of it, you can’t even describe it,” she said of the scene.

Climate activists with Peaceful Uprising on Monday also staged a protest in Utah that connected the spill to the larger issues of fossil fuel mining and the environmental harm such activities cause. Several activists blockaded a Book Cliffs tar sands mine, owned by Calgary-based US Oil Sands, which they say operates on land that rightfully belongs to Indigenous people and risks poisoning the surrounding environment with a similar spill.

“Thousands of mines like open wounds tell the story of a century of exploitation, destruction and violence—against the people of this land and the land and water themselves,” said Melanie Martin, an activist with Peaceful Uprising. “US Oil Sands continues that sick tradition by squandering precious water in a thirsty region and saddling future generations with a toxic legacy there is no way to clean up.”

The orange wastewater, still flowing downriver, is currently heading toward Utah, where the San Juan River joins Lake Powell. In preparation, officials in the town of Montezuma Creek have shut off water pumps there and in nearby Aneth, parking a 7,000-gallon tanker of potable water at a Montezuma Creek fire station.

The accident occurred last Wednesday after EPA workers attempting to investigate heavy metal waste at the abandoned Gold King Mine in Colorado accidentally unleashed the toxic materials into the Cement Creek, which feeds the Animas River. As Common Dreams reported on Sunday, cleanup of non-functioning mines in the U.S. has long been hampered by legal and financial roadblocks.

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