Martin Heinrich is a Democrat representing New Mexico in the U.S. Senate. Last month, a large plume of bright orange toxic waste spilled into the Animas and San Juan Rivers and polluted the Four Corners region. When I toured affected areas following the Gold King Mine spill, I visited with impacted residents and joined the San Juan County Fire Department to deliver water to farmers in Aztec. I was also briefed on the coordinated approach from the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies working with state, local, and tribal officials, including Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye. I share the anger and frustration over this terrible accident and have demanded that the EPA act with urgency to protect the health and safety of our communities and repair the damage inflicted on the watershed.
Sen. Tom Udall and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján introduced legislation designed to clean up the area affected by the Gold King Mine spill. Udall, Luján and Martin Heinrich announced the introduction of the legislation, along with U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., in a press release on Tuesday afternoon. Udall is introducing the legislation on the Senate side, while Luján is introducing the legislation on the House side. The Gold King Mine has been abandoned for decades, but a team hired by the Environmental Protection Agency caused a blowout of the mine. The blowout caused an orange plume of pollution to flow down the Animas River, from Colorado through New Mexico and Utah.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the Gold King Mine spill that dumped waste from a mine into the Animas River. The spill ended up impacting three states as well as the Navajo Nation. U.S. Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M., and John McCain, R-Ariz., requested the hearing by the committee. Both sit on the committee and reached out to chairman John Barasso, R-Wyo., and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., through a letter. The letter that Udall and McCain sent to the committee leadership is available at the bottom of this post, courtesy the Udall office.
As the Animas River spill continues to get national attention, New Mexico Political Report reached out to two reporters for an on-the-ground look at the disaster. It started with a breach of the Gold King Mine by a team working for the Environmental Protection Agency, sending a plume of orange pollution down the river and eventually into three states and through the Navajo Nation. Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor with High Country News and he previously owned and edited the Silverton Standard & The Miner and wrote about the Animas River spill. Tristan Ahtone is a freelance journalist who reported on the spill’s effects on the Navajo Nation for Al Jazeera America. The two spoke to New Mexico Political Report over the phone on Thursday afternoon. “There’s a lot of heartbreak and just kind of sadness around it by sure,” Thompson, who lives in Durango, Colo., said.
FARMINGTON, N.M. – Thousands of abandoned mines in New Mexico, Colorado and other Western states pose as much of a toxic threat, or greater, as the Gold King Mine in Colorado, which leaked three million gallons of toxic sludge and mine waste into the Animas River following an accidental discharge last week. Part of the larger Colorado River system, the Animas is a tributary of the San Juan River, which flows into Lake Powell and mixes with Colorado River water. Farmington is among several downstream communities devastated by the spill. Mike Eisenfeld with the San Juan Citizens Alliance says the Gold King Mine spill is just a sample of the threat posed by century-old abandoned mines. “There’s probably about 20,000 historic, abandoned mines in the Four Corners area,” he says.
A letter signed by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators and Representatives from New Mexico and Colorado is urging President Barack Obama to direct federal resources to the Animas River spill cleanup. Among these resources is a call for a coordinated response to the disaster. The Environmental Protection Agency has been criticized by state and local governments for not providing timely communication on the spill and its impact on the area. The spill happened after a team working for the EPA accidentally released three million gallons of toxic water from an abandoned mine near Silverton, Colo. into a nearby creek.
There will be several high profile visits to the site of the Animas River Spill in the coming days. The spill happened when an Environmental Protection Agency team attempting to clean the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo. released millions of gallons of water with heavy metals and other materials. The materials flowed into a creek that led to the Animas River. Now, the Administrator of the EPA will visit the site of the damage according to a press release by members of the New Mexico congressional delegation.
The Animas River spill, or the Gold King Mine spill depending on your preference, is one of the more high profile environmental disasters in recent southwestern United States history. Yesterday, New Mexico Political Report wrote about six things that you should know about the spill. However, the news continues to change and adapt, so here is the latest on what has happened with the spill. Associated Press: Spill prompts New Mexico to declare emergency: The Associated Press reports that New Mexico was the latest to declare an emergency on Monday. The state of Colorado also declared a state of emergency on Monday.Previously, La Plata County and the City of Durango in Colorado as well as San Juan County in New Mexico and the Navajo Nation had declared states of emergency because of the spill. Farmington Daily-Times: Gold mine’s toxic plume extends to Utah: Utah could easily be next, as the plume of pollution has now reached Utah.
The Animas River turned a sickly orange-brown as waste from an abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado flowed into the river. The water with high level of heavy metals has made its way down the river into New Mexico. The cause? A breach from a team working for the Environmental Protection Agency that was trying to treat some of the contaminants in the mine. Here are a few things you should know about the spill as well as some other background.