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NM Sues Colorado Over Toxic Mine Spill

NM Sues Colorado Over Toxic Mine Spill

"They, essentially, authorized the transformation of Colorado mines into an enormous wastewater storage facility, ready to burst. We’re fighting for New Mexicans to hold Colorado accountable for their short-sighted and reckless actions,” New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said.

NM Goes To U.S. Supreme Court For Help

Suit Says Colorado Mines Were A Wastewater Storage Facility

BY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI

New Mexico has sued the state of Colorado over last year’s Gold King Mine spill, claiming that its northern neighbor was responsible for the toxic spill because, for decades, it let contaminated water accumulated in plugged mine tunnels.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday by Attorney General Hector Balderas, seeks damages for the spill and asks the court to order Colorado officials to take action to prevent future such spills.

“The Gold King mine spill is the result of two decades of disastrous environmental decision-making by Colorado, for which New Mexico and its citizens are now paying the price,” Balderas said in announcing the lawsuit. “New Mexicans rely on the Animas and San Juan rivers for drinking water, ranching, farming, tourism and much more, so our communities must be compensated and protected from future health and safety risks.”

New Mexico Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn said, “Colorado was fully aware of the enormous risks to downstream communities associated with their failed strategy of plugging drainage tunnels. They, essentially, authorized the transformation of Colorado mines into an enormous wastewater storage facility, ready to burst. We’re fighting for New Mexicans to hold Colorado accountable for their short-sighted and reckless actions.”

New Mexico announced the lawsuit in a news release early Thursday morning. The release said: “Years ago, the State of Colorado authorized the risky strategy of plugging mining tunnels with bulkheads to attempt to control acid mine wastewater drainage. Following the August 5, 2015 Gold King Mine blowout, Colorado downplayed the effects of the three million gallon toxic spill into the Animas and San Juan rivers flowing southwest through New Mexico and Utah.”

The 3 million-gallon spill, which originated north of Silverton, Colo., contained 880,000 pounds of toxic metals, including arsenic, lead, cadmium, copper and zinc, the lawsuit said, adding that the spill “constitutes a physical invasion of public and private property in New Mexico.”

The spill occurred when a contractor for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency breached a containment wall at the Gold King Mine, releasing a surge of yellowish water into the Animas.

New Mexico has also filed a federal court lawsuit against the EPA and the owners of the Gold King Mine that seeks $136 million in damages.

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

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