August 05, 2020

On Fifth Anniversary of Gold King Mine Spill, Udall Renews Call for EPA to Compensate Victims, Navajo Nation, and State of New Mexico

Though Udall has helped secure funds to monitor water quality of San Juan and Animas rivers, EPA has failed to make good on their promise to fully compensate victims of the toxic waste spill

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) released the following statement to mark the fifth anniversary of the Gold King Mine spill. Udall again called for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to compensate individual victims, along with the Navajo Nation and State of New Mexico, for the damage caused by the 2015 spill. Udall also called on Congress to reform the nation’s antiquated hardrock mining laws. 

“Five years ago, the waters of the Animas and San Juan rivers turned yellow as government contractors let loose three million gallons of acid mine drainage into our rivers. The Gold King Mine spill was and remains a disastrous combination of federal mismanagement, lack of oversight and lack of accountability. The damage—spanning three states, hurting the Navajo Nation and farmers in northern New Mexico – has been devastating. Even as these communities have shown great resilience, they need to be made whole by the federal government. 

“It’s outrageous that five years after this spill, families in the Navajo Nation and New Mexico have yet to see the compensation they deserve. The EPA’s inaction and refusal to take responsibility have been shameful. And Congressional Republicans continue to be unwilling to force accountability. While I am proud of the funding I have secured for water quality monitoring, Congress  and the federal government have not done enough. 

“Our communities, our health and our economies are built on clean water, and yet thousands of abandoned hardrock mines continue to pollute our waterways in the West.  This spill was entirely preventable—which is why I have fought to force the mining industry to take more responsibly to clean up these abandoned mines. The EPA should take immediate action to compensate New Mexico communities for this disaster. Until that day, I will continue to work hard in Congress to hold EPA accountable and make sure a disaster like this one can never happen again.” 

Udall has helped secure millions of dollars for a long-term water monitoring plan for areas impacted by the Gold King Mine spill, and has introduced legislation to ensure the EPA continues to work with affected communities by requiring the agency to compensate those who were impacted. The proposed legislation would also require the agency to identify the risks of future spills by assessing other abandoned mines for cleanup.

Following the 2015 disaster, Udall has also led the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act that would make mining companies pay their fair share to taxpayers for public land royalties and devote resources to cleaning up abandoned mines across the country like Gold King Mine.