ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Top officials from New Mexico and the Navajo Nation are angry with the federal government's decision not to pay claims related to a 2015 mine spill that tainted rivers in three western states.
Nearly 540 tons of metals - mostly iron and aluminum - contaminated Colorado's Animas River over nine hours during a massive wastewater spill from an abandoned gold mine in August 2015, according to the EPA report released Jan 6.
The report says the total amount of metals entering the river was comparable to levels during one or two days of high spring runoff.
The EPA says its research supports earlier statements that water quality in the affected river system has returned to pre-spill levels.
An EPA-led contractor inadvertently triggered the 3-million-gallon spill while doing preliminary cleanup work at the old Gold King Mine. The blowout turned rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah a sickly yellow.
LoRenzo Bates, Speaker of the Navajo Nation Council, condemned the decision and asked Congressional leaders from Utah, New Mexico and Arizona to push the EPA to compensate the residents and farmers.
Republican New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said Friday that this marks another insult by the Obama administration and serves as another example of why people have lost faith in the federal government.
New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, a Democrat, accused the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of revictimizing the state and the Navajo Nation by not taking full responsibility for triggering the spill of 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater from the Gold King Mine in southern Colorado.
New Mexico was first to sue over the spill.
Both Martinez and Balderas have repeatedly said the EPA should be held to the same standards it would impose on private interests accused of polluting.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.