Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall, Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján announced that the Fiscal Year 2019 spending package passed by Congress on February 14 includes funding for long-term water quality monitoring of the Animas River in response to the Gold King Mine Spill.
“When an EPA cleanup job spilled three million gallons of toxic wastewater from an abandoned mine into the Animas and San Juan rivers, it upended the lives and livelihoods of farmers, ranchers, and many others in the Navajo Nation and northwest New Mexico communities,” said Udall. “It also has resulted in the threat of long-term risks from contamination. As the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that authored this funding bill, I have made sure we have funded independent water quality monitoring for the past several years to protect the health of affected communities. While our work in Congress has made key progress to hold EPA accountable and improve water safety, the EPA has failed to fully compensate those who were hurt by this disaster, and its response has not been acceptable. We need to keep fighting to ensure that all those who were affected by Gold King Mine are made whole.”
“While I am proud that Congress continues to deliver millions of dollars for long-term water quality monitoring for the entire San Juan River watershed, we must do more to ensure communities impacted by the spill are fairly compensated,” said Heinrich. “The Gold King Mine Spill was a disaster of the EPA’s own making, and they have a responsibility to address unpaid claims submitted by the recreation industry, farmers, and ranchers who suffered economic losses. I won’t stop calling on the EPA to right this wrong, and I will keep fighting to pass long overdue hardrock mining reforms to protect the health of New Mexico’s communities, land, and water from future disasters.”
“The federal government has a moral obligation to the farmers, ranchers, small business owners, tribal members, and countless others who have been impacted by this spill,” said Luján. “This funding provides more resources to the EPA to work with the affected states and Indian Tribes to monitor the Animas River, helping protect the health and well-being of the communities who rely on these waters. However, we cannot rest until every individual impacted by this spill receives the compensation they deserve.
The FY19 spending package also urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to process all state, tribal and local requests for reimbursements due to the spill in an expeditious manner. In addition, the package expresses concern that the EPA has not made more progress on paying out Federal Tort Claims related to the spill and directs the EPA to provide an update on this effort.
The New Mexico delegation has successfully secured millions of dollars in previous funding packages for a long-term water monitoring plan for areas impacted by the Gold King Mine spill, and has previously introduced legislation to ensure the EPA continues to work with affected communities by requiring the agency to compensate those who were impacted. It also requires the agency to work with the states and Tribes to fund and implement long-term monitoring of water quality from the mine and to identify the risks of future spills by assessing other abandoned mines for cleanup.