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State Environment Secretary Slams EPA

Rita Daniels / KUNM

State officials met with the Navajo Nation Council on Monday, Aug. 10, to talk about mine waste contamination of the San Juan River flowing through tribal land. New Mexico's top environment official had harsh words about the EPA’s lack of transparency and support. 

"We’re taking this like our lives depend on it, because our lives do depend on this water," said Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn. "And I have been frustrated that I feel like the EPA is not taking this situation like their lives depend on the water."

Flynn said the Environmental Protection Agency is providing only limited information, and pointed out that the state is testing the water itself to find out more about what was released into the Animas River. 

"The state’s position is that we expect EPA to fully compensate us for all of the injuries that this has caused and will cause," he said, "and we have no way of truly understanding what the extent of those injuries will be."

The state is concerned about domestic wells in the flood plain of the river and going door-to-door to conduct tests. And Flynn said all of the information New Mexico gets will be immediately shared with the Navajo Nation. The state is also calling on the feds to provide water so farmers can irrigate in the region.

The EPA’s Ron Curry said the agency is coordinating with local governments to find solutions. "We’re working with San Juan County, along with New Mexico state officials, and we’re looking at providing alternative water supply for the livestock in New Mexico."

Curry said the EPA is continuing to monitor the area at nine locations as the spill makes its way past.

Marisa Demarco began a career in radio at KUNM News in late 2013 and covered public health for much of her time at the station. During the pandemic, she is also the executive producer for Your NM Government and No More Normal, shows focused on the varied impacts of COVID-19 and community response, as well as racial and social justice. She joined Source New Mexico as editor-in-chief in 2021.
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