Thursday, May 26, 2016

N.M. sues EPA, Colorado mine owners for $136M over 2015 toxic wastewater spill ruled preventable

New Mexico has filed a $136 million lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency and the owners of southwestern Colorado’s Gold King Mine over an August spill that released three million gallons of toxic wastewater from the defunct mine, Ollie Reed Jr. reports for the Albuquerque Journal. In October the U.S Bureau of Reclamation determined that the spill was preventable. An EPA document released after the spill said EPA knew of the dangers of a polluted water blowout when it sent a crew into the mine. (EPA photo: Yellow wastewater at the entrance to the mine in San Juan County)

The lawsuit, which cites economic setbacks and environmental damage, "demands reimbursement of $889,327 for short-term emergency-response costs paid by the state, more than $6 million to pay for long-term monitoring of the Animas and San Juan rivers and $130 million for lost income, taxes, fees and revenues suffered by the state because of the spill," Reed writes. Ryan Flynn, New Mexico environment secretary, told Reed, "The river only flows one way. Trouble could still be coming for New Mexico. We have been pushing for a monitoring effort since October. Our concept is $6 million plus and five years of comprehensive monitoring that would give us a firm grasp of what is happening in the watershed. All EPA has said is we will give you is $465,000. That just doesn’t cut it.”

EPA, which does not comment on pending litigation filed by outside parties, said in a statement released Monday that "the agency takes responsibility for the mine spill cleanup and has been working to reimburse response costs and fund tribal and state monitoring plans as well as conduct its own monitoring of the Animas and San Juan rivers," Reed writes.

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