June 23, 2016

New Mexico sues Colorado over toxic mine spill

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Entrance to the Gold King Mine. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency

Entrance to the Gold King Mine. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency

The state of New Mexico announced a lawsuit against the state of Colorado over the Animas River spill that resulted in millions of gallons of contaminated water to flow down the river into the state’s Four Corners area.

Entrance to the Gold King Mine. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency

Entrance to the Gold King Mine. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency

This is the second lawsuit by the state over the spill. Previously, the state announced a lawsuit against the federal government.

At issue is the blowout of the Gold King Mine, where a team working for the federal Environmental Protection Agency caused the release of the toxic water from an abandoned mine near Silverton, CO. The mine is one of many abandoned mines dating back decades.

“The Gold King Mine release is the result of two decades of disastrous environmental decision-making by Colorado, for which New Mexico and its citizens are now paying the price,” Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement. “New Mexicans rely on the Animas and San Juan Rivers for drinking water, ranching, farming, tourism and much more, so our communities must be compensated and protected from future health and safety risks.”

Like with the federal lawsuit, the AG is on the same page as the Environment Department; Balderas and the Susana Martinez administration have not seen eye-to-eye on every issue.

“Colorado was fully aware of the enormous risks to downstream communities associated with their failed strategy of plugging drainage tunnels,” Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said. “They, essentially, authorized the transformation of Colorado mines into an enormous wastewater storage facility, ready to burst. We’re fighting for New Mexicans to hold Colorado accountable for their short-sighted and reckless actions.”

Flynn previously accused the federal government of not being forthright in the extent of the spill and the possible effects on those downstream.

The Navajo Nation also has signalled an intention to sue the federal government over the spill.

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