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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, February 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

New Mexico Takes EPA to Court Over Toxic Spill

SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) - New Mexico is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over an accident at an abandoned gold mine in Colorado that dumped more than 3 million gallons of toxic waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

During an EPA investigation of the abandoned Gold King Mine on Aug. 5 last year, heavy machinery disturbed a dam holding waste water, broke open a tunnel and released acid mine waste into Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River.

The waste water, containing arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, stained the river yellow and spread toxins through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and the Navajo Nation.

The affected states scorched the EPA, claiming it failed to timely notify them of the spill. New Mexico's Department of Environment Department said it heard of the spill not from the EPA but from the Southern Ute Tribe.

New Mexico's Environmental Secretary Ryan Flynn notified the EPA of his intent to sue on Jan. 14.

"From the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business. The EPA caused an unprecedented disaster that may affect our state for years to come; they must take responsibility," Flynn said in a statement.

Flynn named as defendants the EPA, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the state of Colorado, Environmental Restoration LLC, San Juan Corporation, Sunnyside Gold Inc., Kinross Gold Corporation and Kinross Gold's president Todd Hennis.

New Mexico blames them for "creating an imminent and substantial endangerment to the health of New Mexico's citizens and the environment of the Animas and San Juan Rivers in New Mexico."

Neither the EPA nor the New Mexico Environment Department responded to telephone calls Tuesday afternoon.

The Notice of Intent to Sue was prepared by William Jackson with Jackson, Gilmour & Dobbs in Houston.

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