5th law­suit filed against EPA over 2015 mine waste spill

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - BUSINESS -

AL­BU­QUERQUE, N.M. » A fifth law­suit has been filed against the U.S. En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency over a mine waste spill the agency in­ad­ver­tently trig­gered in 2015, pol­lut­ing rivers in Colorado, New Mex­ico and Utah.

The law­suit was filed Aug. 3 in fed­eral court in Al­bu­querque, New Mex­ico, by 295 Navajo farm­ers and ranch­ers. Their at­tor­ney, Kate Fer­lic, said Fri­day the law­suit asks for about $75 mil­lion.

The law­suit claims farm­ers and ranch­ers lost crops and live­stock and had to pay to haul clean wa­ter be­cause the spill pre­vented them from us­ing wa­ter from the pol­luted rivers.

The EPA re­ferred ques­tions to De­part­ment of Jus­tice of­fi­cials, who did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a phone mes­sage seek­ing com­ment.

Other de­fen­dants in­clude eight com­pa­nies and sub­sidiaries that were in­volved in min­ing in the area or worked for the EPA.

An EPA-led con­trac­tor crew was do­ing ex­ca­va­tion work at the en­trance to the Gold King Mine in south­west­ern Colorado in August 2015 when it ac­ci­den­tally breached a de­bris pile that was hold­ing back waste­water inside the mine.

An es­ti­mated 3 mil­lion gal­lons (11 mil­lion liters) of waste­water poured out, car­ry­ing nearly 540 tons (490 met­ric tons) of met­als, mostly iron and alu­minum.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Wil­liam P. John­son con­sol­i­dated the new law­suit with four oth­ers filed pre­vi­ously by the Navajo Na­tion, the states of New Mex­ico and Utah and about a dozen New Mex­ico res­i­dents. Those suits seek a to­tal of $2.3 bil­lion.

The EPA asked the judge last month to dis­miss the law­suits. The agency said the court does not need to in­ter­vene be­cause crews are al­ready work­ing on the cleanup.

The judge has not ruled on the re­quest.

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