Home New mexico economy New Mexico reaches $32 million settlement for 2015 mine spill

New Mexico reaches $32 million settlement for 2015 mine spill


ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — New Mexico and the US government have reached a $32 million settlement over a 2015 mine spill that polluted rivers in three western states.

Similar environmental crashes will be intolerable in the future as the region grapples with dwindling water supplies amid drought and climate change, the governor said Thursday.

“Every drop is precious,” Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said at a news conference. “If we don’t have that water, we don’t grow our own food.”

The spill released 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of wastewater from the inactive Gold King mine in southwestern Colorado, sending a bright yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals to the southern New Mexico, through the Navajo Nation, and into Utah through the San Juan and Animas rivers.

Water supply utilities were forced to scramble and close inlet valves while farmers stopped drawing from rivers as contaminants moved downstream.

The New Mexico settlement is just the latest reached in the past year. Colorado and the Navajo Nation also signed multimillion-dollar agreements to settle claims and determine responsibility for continued cleanup at the Superfund site that was created in the aftermath of the spill.

Under the New Mexico agreement, the federal government will make cash payments for response costs, environmental restoration and efforts to alleviate negative perceptions about rivers in the region following of the spill. The money will also go towards water quality monitoring and cleaning activities.

Lujan Grisham called the settlement a turning point for communities in the area.

“As the San Juan and Animas Rivers have healed from the spill, it’s time for communities like Farmington, Bloomfield and Aztec to do the same,” she said in a statement, saying the money was deserved at the time. light of the federal government’s role in the disaster.

The state also received $11 million in damages from the mining companies, and the case against the federal contractors involved is ongoing.

On August 5, 2015, Environmental Protection Agency contractors attempting cleanup work resulted in the release of toxic sewage. The plume eventually reached Lake Powell in Utah.

Although the rivers are now safe for irrigation and other uses, state and local authorities have said the stigma associated with the event has had lasting effects on the region’s economy.

The Navajo Nation finalized a $31 million settlement with the federal government this week. The tribe said the plume traveled about 200 miles (322 kilometers) up the San Juan River, which it considers sacred.

Senior Navajo officials visited the mine site and shared photos and videos of sewage rushing downstream on social media.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the tribe is committed to holding accountable anyone who caused or contributed to the spill. He added that he was grateful that the federal government recognized the devastation he caused.

While New Mexico and the Navajo Nation have filed separate lawsuits, the cases have been consolidated and state officials said Thursday that remediation and restoration work would be coordinated.

State officials said a restoration plan will be developed with public input.