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EPA Snaps to Own Spill

EPA Snaps to Own Spill

Gov. Susana Martinez criticized the agency as 'irresponsible,' saying it was unacceptable that the State of New Mexico had to learn of the spill from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and not the federal government

poison bottlesFour days after its employees knocked loose a plug in a retaining pond and sent one million gallons of heavy-metal laced polluted water into the Animas River, the Environmental Protection Agency says it will hold daily news briefings on the contamination.

“EPA is working closely with first responders and local and state officials to ensure the safety of citizens to water contaminated by the spill,” the agency said in a news release issued Sunday.

Gov. Susana Martinez criticized the agency as “irresponsible” on Saturday, saying it was unacceptable that the State of New Mexico had to learn of the spill from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and not the federal government.

The water was from a settling pond of the abandoned GoldKing gold mine. The EPA was checking on the mine when its workers accidentally knocked loose a plug and sent the pond’s orange-colored contents streaming into a nearby creek which feeds into the Animas River.

The EPA released the results of sampling of the contaminated water. It contains chromium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, lead, copper, cobalt, cadmium, barium and arsenic, as well as high levels of calcium, potassium and sodium. The Denver Post reported that the sampling shows the water was as acidic as coffee.

The Animas River starts in the San Juan Mountains of Southern Colorado and flows into the San Juan River, which flows through Farmington, N.M. on its way to Lake Powell, Nev., where it joins the Colorado River. Near Farmington, below the Navajo Dam, are some of the nation’s best trout fishing waters.

— ABQ Free Press staff report

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.