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New Mexico Files Suit Against Colorado Over Gold King Mine Spill

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The Animas River just south of Silverton, polluted by a massive mine waste spill less than 24 hours before.

In May, the state of New Mexico filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill. Now, New Mexico is suing the state of Colorado.

In a complaint filed Thursday in the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys for New Mexico say the spill of more than 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater into a tributary of the Animas River carried metals such as arsenic, lead, and mercury into New Mexico’s San Juan River system. They say there was “a staggering spike in metal concentrations” and that the resulting health risks may linger for years.  The complaint says “the shocking sight of the bright yellow plume of contamination” also eroded public confidence in the health of New Mexico’s waters, affecting ranching,  angling, and tourism. It says Colorado and EPA officials knew wastewater had been building up in the mine and knew there was a risk of a blowout if anyone tried to excavate or drain it without conducting testing first, but plowed ahead anyway. The lawsuit also charges that Colorado was responsible for the conditions leading up to the catastrophe because of decades of lax oversight of historic mines. It notes that Colorado and local officials had refused to support a Superfund listing that would have meant money for cleanup because of worries the listing would affect tourism in the area.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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