Utah sues over massive Gold King Mine spill

Brennan Linsley, Associated Press

Water flows through a series of sediment retention on Aug. 14, 2015, The ponds were built to reduce heavy metal and chemical contaminants from the Gold King Mine wastewater accident, in the spillway about a quarter-mile downstream from the mine outside Silverton, Colo.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said contractors, mine operators and others working at the Gold King Mine in Colorado nearly two years ago committed a series of negligent steps, leading to the massive release of contaminated sludge that despoiled key Utah waterways.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court Monday, Reyes asserts the contractor, subcontractor and mine owner — Delaware-based Sunnyside Gold Corp. — failed to take a host of proper precautions to avoid the disastrous breach near Silverton that released 3 million gallons of metals-laden sludge.

The Utah Department of Environmental Quality is continuing to take water samples from the San Juan River, which was impacted, and Lake Powell, where most of the sludge was deposited.

While Utah agencies and other entities, such as San Juan County, were compensated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $464,000 for costs related to the initial response, Reyes’ suit asks for punitive damages for the ongoing environmental impacts, stigma associated with the spill and interference with the public’s ability to enjoy the waterways.

The suit asserts the EPA’s on-site team:

• Assumed that because the mine was draining it was not under pressure from the contaminated…

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