While the media focuses on the water quality in Flint, the Navajo water supply has been under attack since the 1950’s

The news out of Flint, Michigan brought the issue of contaminated drinking water into sharp focus, as it was revealed that officials at every level—local, state and federal—knew about lead-poisoned water for months but did nothing to address the problem.

Under state-run systems like utilities and roads, poorer communities are the last to receive attention from government plagued by inefficiencies and corrupt politicians. Perhaps no group knows this better than Native Americans, who have been victimized by government for centuries.

In the western U.S., water contamination has been a way of life for many tribes. The advocacy group Clean Up The Mines! describes the situation in Navajo country, which is far worse than in Flint, Michigan.

Since the 1950s, their water has been poisoned by uranium mining to fuel the nuclear industry and the making of atomic bombs for the U.S. military. Coal mining and coal-fired power plants have added to the mix. The latest assault on Navajo water was carried out by the massive toxic spills into the Animas and San Juan rivers when the EPA recklessly attempted to address the abandoned Gold King mine.

There is no comprehensive law requiring cleanup of abandoned uranium mines, meaning corporations and government can walk away from them after exploiting their resources. 75 percent of abandoned uranium mines are on federal and Tribal lands.

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