The State of New Mexico intends to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the Gold King Mine spill of last August, which sent three million gallons of sludge flowing through the Animas and San Juan rivers.
The mess first traversed Southern Ute tribal territory and then flowed through the Navajo Nation, causing disaster declarations on both reservations. In November, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, released a report indicating that the EPA could have prevented the spill.
Those assertions were echoed in a statement from the New Mexico Environment Department in announcing its intent to sue.
“From the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business,” said New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary Ryan Flynn in the January 14 statement. “The EPA caused an unprecedented disaster that may affect our state for years to come; they must take responsibility. Because EPA headquarters continues to shirk their duties for meaningful support and collaboration [min . mark 3:40:21], we have no choice but to turn to the justice system to hold EPA accountable to New Mexicans."
The city of Silverton, Colorado, intends to seek Superfund assistance to clean up what remains of the mess, the Associated Press reported in November.
New Mexico is also suing the State of Colorado and the owners of the Gold King and Sunnyside Mines, the statement said. The goal is “to address the environmental impacts resulting from the 2015 massive waste spill in the Animas River that EPA officials admitted to causing.”