Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico’s Third District has released the following statement after participating in meetings and briefings with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy over the past two days on the Gold King Mine spill. Luján met with McCarthy in Durango, Colorado and Farmington, New Mexico. Earlier in the week he spoke with McCarty on the importance of visiting New Mexico. Luján, along with New Mexico Senators Udall and Heinrich, also sent a letter to McCarthy to express their concerns with EPA’s response.
“As a native New Mexican who is proud to call the Land of Enchantment home, it is so painful to see what has happened to the Animas River – to see the toll that it has taken on our communities when more than a week after the spill people still cannot use their wells and farmers still cannot irrigate their crops. People’s lives and their livelihoods are being harmed.
“I appreciate that Administrator McCarthy has come to New Mexico to see first-hand the impact this spill is having. I met with the Administrator in Durango yesterday and participated in briefings and meetings in Colorado, and we met again last night in Farmington to receive more information about water quality testing. Throughout her visit and in our correspondences in the immediate wake of the spill, I have made it clear to the Administrator that our people, our businesses, and our state, local, and tribal governments must be made whole.
“I have also discussed the importance of improved communication from EPA after hearing the frustration from the community at Saturday’s meeting in Farmington. Following the meeting I spoke with the Regional Administrator to call on EPA to work with our communities, establish a toll free number for information, and create a coordinated effort to improve communication among EPA’s three regions. I am glad the agency named one point person to oversee its efforts and established a toll free number to provide information in English, Spanish and Navajo.
“While there is a short-term responsibility to restore the health of the river, we must not forget that it is also important to look at nearby mines to make sure that steps are being taken to prevent this from happening again in the future. At the federal level we need to work with our communities to address the mines that need to be cleaned up, including designating sites as superfund to make resources available for proper cleanup.
“EPA is taking responsibility for this disaster, but with that must come accountability. I know that the visit to New Mexico and Colorado has illustrated to Administrator McCarthy the magnitude of this situation. I will continue to stay in close contact with Administrator McCarthy to see that EPA is using every tool at its disposal to clean up this mess and that our state, our communities, and our people are made whole.”