Hopi Tribe Sues US Government – Arsenic in Drinking Water Supply Causing Harm on Reservation

published on February 5, 2012


A commitment was made by the United States to the Hopi reservation upon its establishment stating it would provide the tribe with water sufficient to achieve its purpose as a permanent homeland for the Hopi Tribe.

As arsenic levels in some areas have exceeded those set by the Federal drinking water regulations, the tribe said enough. On January 19, a complaint was filed by the Hopi Tribe in the United States Court of Federal Claims seeking damages as a result of high levels of arsenic in the drinking water supply for the eastern part of the reservation according to a Hopi press release.

The carcinogen is a poison that is known to have serious health effects. In an October story by Indian Country Today Media Network, “Long-term ingestion of the metallic substance can result in thickening and discoloration of the skin, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, numbness in hands and feet, partial paralysis and blindness.” Arsenic has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes mellitus.

For the tribe, the word sufficient in the agreement meant in quantity and quality of the water, which hasn’t been the case in the communities at First Mesa and Second Mesa, where levels have been recorded at more than four times the normal level.

According to the tribe, the federal government has known about the serious risks posed on the reservation for years with no resolve.

“Safe drinking water can be provided for the Hopi Tribe for many years to come but can only be delivered to the communities in need at a substantial cost,” according to Lionel Puhuyesva, Hopi Water Resources program director.

A sufficient supply of water is a fundamental component of the establishment of the Hopi reservation and a vital component of the government-to-government trust relationship. The failure to deliver on this agreement is a violation of federal law according to the Hopi Tribe. The lawsuit seeks to recovery money damages to compensate for a new water supply and other related damages.

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