May 23, 2016

State sues feds over Animas River spill

Photo of Gold King Mine spill results. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency.

The state of New Mexico is seeking over $100 million in a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency for a mine blowout that led to millions of gallons of orangeish sludge flowing down the Animas River in the Four Corners area of the state.

Photo of Gold King Mine spill results. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency.

Photo of Gold King Mine spill results. Photo via Environmental Protection Agency.

The blowout took place when a contractor with the EPA caused a blowout of an abandoned mine. The mistake by an EPA contractor caused 3 million gallons of toxic waste that had been gathering in the mine for years to flow down the Animas River, into New Mexico then to Utah.

The Albuquerque Journal reported on the lawsuit, which has been pending for some time, seeks more than $136 million, most of which for lost economic activity in the state.

The Navajo Nation also said after the spill they are readying a lawsuit against the federal government.

The state and Navajo Nation governments both heavily criticized the EPA not only for the spill itself but also for the response. The governments criticized the EPA for not providing full explanations and for, when explanations were provided, not providing adequate information.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas and the New Mexico Environment Department filed the suit.

In a statement, Balderas said the spill caused “devastating impact on our historical, rural, agricultural and tribal communities.” Balderas criticized federal remediation and compensation to communities since the spill as “far too minimal for these very special agricultural and cultural communities who depend on this precious water source for irrigation and drinking water.”

“It is inappropriate for the EPA to impose weak testing standards in New Mexico and I am demanding the highest testing standards that the EPA would impose in any other state in the nation to protect the health and well-being of our citizens,” Balderas said.

“Over the last seven months we have sought practical negotiations with EPA on topics ranging from their bizarre sediment standard, to comprehensive long-term monitoring,” New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn wrote. “Our requests have been simple: ‘Please help us keep New Mexicans safe from the effects of the spill which you caused.’

“Rather than joining our monitoring efforts, EPA instead cherry picks the data they choose to monitor and present; and then dodges accountability at every turn.”