State to sue EPA for mine waste spill

State to sue EPA for mine waste spill
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New Mexico says it will sue the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its massive August toxic mine waste spill in Colorado.

The spill, caused by an EPA contractor trying to remediate a polluted abandoned mine, sent 3 million gallons of sludge with heavy metals into the Animas River near Silverton, Colo.

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It emptied into the San Juan River, which flows to New Mexico, causing the river to close for days before the waste dissipated. The water soon returned to its pre-spill conditions, but New Mexico said it is still evaluating the impacts.

“From the very beginning, the EPA failed to hold itself accountable in the same way that it would a private business,” Ryan Flynn, secretary of New Mexico’s Environment Department, said in a statement.

“The EPA caused an unprecedented disaster that may affect our state for years to come; they must take responsibility,” he added.

The state agency is also suing Colorado and the owner of the abandoned mine for their roles in the spill.

New Mexico joins the Navajo Nation, through which the San Juan flows, in suing the EPA. It filed a 90-day advanced notice of its intent Thursday.

The EPA quickly took responsibility for the spill and pledged to do right by the local community.

“EPA’s core mission is to ensure a clean environment and to protect public health, so it pains me to no end to see this is happening,” EPA head Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyIt's time for Congress to address the 'forever chemical' crisis Overnight Energy: Critics accuse Interior's top lawyer of misleading Congress | Boaty McBoatface makes key climate change discovery | Outrage over Trump's order to trim science advisory panels Trump's order to trim science advisory panels sparks outrage MORE said days after the spill. “But we’re working tirelessly to respond, and we’ve committed to a full review of exactly what happened, to ensure that it can never happen again.”

But local, state and national leaders said the agency came up short in a number of ways, including quickly notifying downstream communities and getting the right resources to areas that were suffering.

“I would argue that we should have done it better,” McCarthy told lawmakers about the response “Are we trying to do better? Yes."