EPA seeks dismissal of lawsuit filed by Utah, other states over Gold King Mine spill

This 2015 file photo shows the Animas River shortly after the toxic spill at the Gold King Mine in Colorado, August 2015 | Photo courtesy of Riverhugger via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants a federal court to toss a lawsuit filed by Utah, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation seeking the repayment of cleanup costs for a mine spill in Colorado that polluted rivers in three states.

In this 2015 file photo, Dan Bender, with the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office, takes a water sample from the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Aug. 6, 2015 | Photo by Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via The Associated Press, St. George News

The EPA said in a motion Wednesday that the court doesn’t need to intervene because crews are already working on the cleanup of water contaminated with heavy metals that was accidentally released from an EPA-monitored mine.

“Granting any relief in New Mexico, within the Navajo Nation, or in Utah would conflict and interfere with EPA’s exclusive jurisdiction over its on-going response action activities and cleanup remedies,” the federal government said in court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque.

Utah is seeking for $1.9 billion in damages from the EPA. The Navajo Nation filed a claim for $162 million, and the state of New Mexico is seeking $130 million.

Read more: Utah adds EPA, contractor to lawsuit over Gold King Mine waste spill

The 2015 Gold King accident in southern Colorado occurred at an inactive mine where polluted water had been accumulating for years before an agency crew accidentally released it during cleanup work.

The spill sent a yellow-orange plume of toxic heavy metals into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and on Native American lands.

The EPA had no rules for working around old mines when agency workers triggered the spill, government investigators said in 2017.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas showed no signs of giving up on the lawsuit after the EPA’s motion.

“We look forward to continuing our efforts to protect our water, environment and unique culture as we prepare our responses to these claims,” Balderas spokesman David Carl said in a statement.

Written by The Associated Press.

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