ALBUQUERQUE (AP) – New Mexico officials said Thursday they plan to sue the federal government and the owners of two Colorado mines that were the source of a massive spill last year that contaminated rivers in three Western states.
More than five months after the mine spill, the New Mexico Environment Department claims it’s out of options. They hope announcing plans to sue the federal government and the owners of two Colorado mines, will help kick the EPA into action.
“We haven’t seen EPA hold itself up to the same standard that it would expect for any other entity that caused a disaster like they caused here,” Secretary Ryan Flynn of the New Mexico Environment Department told KRQE News 13.
Last August, an EPA cleanup crew accidentally leaked three million gallons of toxic waste water from a Silverton, Colorado mine into the Animas river, sending an orange plume through Durango and into New Mexico. The mine contained heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
The EPA assured the community it would hold itself accountable, and work to clean up the area.
However, on Thursday, Secretary Flynn told KRQE News 13 that just hasn’t happened. He claims the EPA has been more concerned with fixing its publicity on the damage, than fixing the problem.
“Just because the yellow sludge has passed through our communities, that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal, there’s been a lot of metal that’s been left over in the river,” said Flynn.
Flynn said during storms, tests still show unsafe levels of lead in the Animas river. He’d like to see the EPA install monitoring equipment for starters.
By law, New Mexico’s Environment Department is required to give 90 days notice before filing a lawsuit, so, Flynn said, if the EPA works with the state on a long-term solution, it will not go to court on the issue.
The state said it’s unclear just how much it will seek in damages, but it’ll likely be in the tens of millions of dollars.
The lawsuit would be a first and also would target the state of Colorado and the owners of the Gold King and Sunnyside Mines.