The Hopi Tribe is seeking $20 million from the federal government to clean up arsenic in drinking water.
In the Hopi communities of First and Second Mesa, naturally occurring arsenic levels in drinking water exceed federal limits by as much as four times.
Arsenic has been linked to cancers and circulatory problems.
Hopi water director Lionel Puhuyesva says the tribe decided to sue the government, rather than ask Congress for money.
“With the climate of the federal budget, we have no faith that any Congressional action will be taken in a timely manner,” Puhuyesva says.
The tribe is suing the Bureau of Indian Affairs under the Indian Tucker Act.
They claim failure to provide safe drinking water violates the government’s decades-long legal obligation to the tribe.
Puhuyesva says the tribe wants to drill new wells into an aquifer free of arsenic. They also want to build a regional water system that would supply First and Second Mesa.