August 05, 2016

Udall, Heinrich Commemorate Anniversary of Gold King Mine Spill

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich issued the following statement marking one year since since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) caused the Gold King Mine spill in Southern Colorado and severely contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers. 

On August 5, 2015, an EPA-supervised crew released three million gallons of toxic wastewater into Cement Creek-which flows into the Animas and San Juan Rivers-while working at the Gold King Mine in Colorado. The Animas and San Juan both flow into New Mexico and across the Navajo Nation. The spill, which contaminated the water with heavy metals like lead and arsenic, had a terrible impact on the farmers, ranchers, and communities downstream.

The senators released the following joint statement:

"Although it has been one year since the spill at Gold King Mine, the health and financial impacts linger on in the Four Corners region. Farmers, ranchers, and communities on the Navajo Nation and throughout San Juan County are still struggling to recover from the loss of income and uncertainty surrounding the long-term effects of the blowout. The people impacted must be made whole again.

"Investigations have shown that the EPA made several serious mistakes that led to the spill. The agency owes it to the people of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation to make things right. That is why we introduced the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act last year to require the EPA to compensate those who were impacted and work with the Navajo Nation and states to fund and implement long-term water quality monitoring. While the EPA has made $2 million dollars available for monitoring, that is not nearly enough. We will continue to fight for more funding, faster compensation for victims, and urge the EPA to rapidly reimburse the Navajo Nation and the State of New Mexico for any and all emergency expenses that they incurred responding to this disaster.

"In April, we welcomed the news that the EPA is proposing to add the Bonita Peak Mining District-which includes the Gold King-to its Superfund National Priorities List. On average, Gold King and its three neighboring mines pour 330 million gallons of contaminated water annually into Cement Creek and the Animas River. And there are dozens more in the Silverton area that also contribute to this destructive legacy. Superfund status will allow the EPA and the State of Colorado to work on long-term cleanup steps that will directly benefit our downstream New Mexico communities.

"There are as many as 500,000 abandoned mines threatening waterways throughout the United States-which is why we must also work hard to prevent another disaster like the Gold King Mine spill. We introduced the Hardrock Mining and Reclamation Act to help prevent future blowouts like these by ensuring mining companies pay a commonsense royalty to help pay for abandoned mine cleanup and prevent future disasters. Hardrock mining companies have enjoyed a sweetheart deal for nearly 150 years and we believe they should pay for the privilege of extracting mineral resources from public lands so that taxpayers aren't on the hook for cleanup costs."