WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) welcomed the launch of a new program to develop and implement long-term water quality monitoring for the San Juan River watershed. The delegation secured $4 million in the omnibus that was signed into law last month for the program.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced last week that it has partnered with the seven states and tribes adjoining the watershed - Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, the Navajo Nation, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe - to sample and assess the water quality of the watershed, including the San Juan River, the Animas River, and Lake Powell.
"Today's welcome announcement is possible because of the New Mexico delegation's hard work to authorize and provide funding for the San Juan Watershed Monitoring Program, a critical effort that will support Navajo Nation and Northwestern New Mexico communities as they continue to recover from the devastating Gold King Mine spill," said Udall, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the EPA's budget. "The Gold King Mine blowout spilled millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into the San Juan and Animas rivers - and Navajo Nation and Northwestern New Mexico were left to pick up the pieces. The launch of this water safety monitoring program represents a positive step to ensure we know what long term effects are in New Mexico's water supply. However, much important work still needs to be done. Despite promises to reconsider the previous denials of compensation, the EPA under Administrator Pruitt still has yet to pay any claims brought by private parties. In the Senate and in my position on the Appropriations Committee, I will continue to fight for the resources needed for adequate water monitoring and other measures to fully compensate those hurt by Gold King Mine."
"In the Southwest, water is our most precious resource. I'm pleased we were able to secure funding for this critical long-term water quality monitoring program to support New Mexico and the Navajo Nation recover from the disastrous Gold King Mine spill," said Heinrich, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "I continue to share the anger and frustration of our communities in the Four Corners region over this terrible accident and believe more work must be done to hold the EPA accountable to compensate the victims of the spill for their losses and restore and protect the health of our communities, land, and water."
“The Gold King Mine spill contaminated the Animas and San Juan Rivers in New Mexico, putting the health and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, tribes, and businesses who depend on the water from these rivers at risk,” said Pearce. “I’m pleased to see the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) take responsibility to mandate a long-term water monitoring program so that surrounding communities can have confidence in the quality of their water. I appreciate the work of the administration to review damages and will continue working to ensure that New Mexicans affected by this spill will be rightfully compensated.”
"The after effects of the Gold King Mine spill are still felt by communities across New Mexico. While there are still many challenges that must be addressed as a result of this spill. Long-term monitoring of water quality is an important step in rebuilding trust for those who were impacted," said Luján. "This program will provide the Environmental Protection Agency, the New Mexico Environment Department, tribes, and regional partners tools to better protect this important resource, so that downstream tributaries and rivers continue to receive freely flowing, clean water from the San Juan Watershed."
“In a 2015 House Oversight Committee Hearing, EPA assured me that they were taking full responsibility for cleaning up the Gold King Mine Spill, which released millions of gallons of toxic water into New Mexico communities. The implementation of the New Mexico San Juan Watershed Monitoring Program is an important step forward,” said Lujan Grisham. “It will ensure that EPA is living up to its responsibilities in the region to protect the health, environment and economy of impacted areas. However, much more needs to be done, and I join with my colleagues to continue fighting for the full compensation of residents living in the Navajo Nation and Northern New Mexico affected by the damage of the EPA’s spill.”