With its farmers advised to avoid using water from the San Juan River for weeks after a toxic spill of wastewater from an inactive mine contaminated it and the Animas River, federal officials arranged to send relief water to members of the Navajo Nation.
However, some members say that the water delivered to them was tainted.
Shiprock farm board member Joe Ben Jr. complained that water coming from tanks delivered by a contractor employed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contained oil and didn't smell right.
Navajo Nation President Russel Begaye shows oil on his finger after rubbing it inside the tank that held water delivered for irrigation and livestock purposes from an EPA contractor. (Image source: Navajo Nation OPVP Russell Begaye And Jonathan Nez/Facebook video screenshot)
"I reached my hand into the tank and felt my hand getting oily," tribal President Russell Begaye said, according to KOAT-TV. "There are these black beads in the water, and when you rub them, black streaks go down your hands."
Begaye told KOB-TV that the EPA had said the tanks held "only clean water for drinking."
"Clearly it is just a lie. Clearly, it is an oil tank. That's what it is," the tribal leader told the news station.
Begaye and Navajo Attorney General Ethel Branch went to Shiprock to look at the tanks a day after farmers voted to reject the water, posting videos on Facebook of their examination.
Here are three of those videos:
SHIPROCK, NM- President Begaye and Attorney General Branch are personally investigating concerns about tainted water in EPA tanks. The President and the Attorney General are extremely troubled by these reports and are working to gather all the facts and will discuss their findings with senior EPA officials and the Navajo Nation as soon as we updated information.Posted by Navajo Nation OPVP Russell Begaye And Jonathan Nez on Wednesday, August 19, 2015
SHIPROCK,NM - President Russell Begaye and Navajo Nation Washington Office Executive Director Jackson Brossy investigating tanks that were to provide safe drinking water for our livestock and farming learned those tanks are now tainted.Posted by Navajo Nation OPVP Russell Begaye And Jonathan Nez on Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Another video from the contaminated "water tanks" that the #EPA delivered to the #Navajo Nation.Posted by Navajo Nation OPVP Russell Begaye And Jonathan Nez on Wednesday, August 19, 2015
"That is clearly oil," Branch said. "We don't trust the EPA to be here. They need to get out of our nation, send the dollars directly here. Let us take care of these issues ourselves because we care about the health and welfare of our people."
According to KOAT, the Navajo Nation seized the tanks and tribal spokesman Mihio Manus said tribal officials were testing the water.
Watch KOAT's report:
The EPA said it would provide an alternate water source from within the reservation but didn't directly address questions regarding the holding tanks. One EPA contractor, Triple S Trucking, said the tanks were cleaned before being delivered to the reservation.
The EPA did not immediately respond to TheBlaze's request for comment on the relief water, but in a statement told KOB the trucks from the contractor were "team cleaned and inspected prior to use at Shiprock." The contractor, Triple S Trucking, told the news station it was working with the EPA to investigate the complaint.
KOB reported that as of Thursday the Bureau of Indian Affairs was supplying water from the Navajo Dam through the company Navajo Agricultural Products, Inc.
Federal and tribal officials said the water quality levels in the San Juan River had returned to pre-spill conditions, according to recent tests. Begaye said Thursday he would now consider lifting an advisory against using the river to water crops.
The EPA said testing of surface water collected over a week in Hogback, New Mexico, showed water quality at the same levels as those measured before the mine waste reached the reservation. The agency has taken full responsibility for the Aug. 5 spill at the Gold King Mine.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Begaye spoke Wednesday about water quality in the river and agreed to have EPA cease water deliveries Friday for agricultural use on the reservation, the EPA and Manus said. The agency said it would work with the Navajo Nation on a monitoring plan for the river.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.