Statement from Water Development Commission Senate Chair Margaret Dayton Regarding EPA’s Carless Stewardship of Animas River Spill

Utah Senator Margaret Dayton, Senate Chair of the State Water Development Commission, released the following statement in regards to the Environmental Protection Agency’s toxic spill from the King Gold Mine into the Animas River last week.

Water Development Commission Co-Chair Representative Grover and I have serious concerns with the EPA’s reaction to this costly disaster. We have received word that the contamination has reached Montezuma Creek, and is headed for Lake Powell. The pollutants in the water include arsenic, lead, copper, aluminum, and cadmium, and carry with them great potential for long-term damage.
Adding to our concern is the fact that the EPA failed to inform state officials about the contamination until the day after the spill occurred when it was already obvious to anyone who could see the water that the mustard-colored spill could not be ignored. Adding to our frustration is the fact that when states were finally notified of the toxic spill, EPA reported a 1 million gallon spill – only later reporting it was closer to 3 million gallons.
This mistake and lack of transparency by the federal EPA is yet another egregious example of why states and local entities are much better managers of our own land and natural resources.
As Chairs of the State Water Development Commission, we have added the Animus Disaster to next Tuesday’s agenda. We have not had opportunity to contact all the members of the WDC, but have agendized this issue for our meeting next Tuesday. The WDC is made up of 15 members which includes legislators, county commissioners, water district supervisors, organized environmental groups and others from the water community. The Commission meets at least 4 times a year to address water concerns, proposed water legislation, and other current water issues.
The Western States have watched the unelected and less accountable federal bureaucracies continually threaten our water, our roads, our land and our economy. This is not an abstract curiosity to the citizens of our state.
Citizens who will ultimately have to live with the consequences of land-use decisions have the most at stake, and are deserving of transparency, pragmatic solutions and addressing the future water needs of Utah. Some residents of San Juan County, Utah are having their water trucked in at great expense – and have been limited to 25 gallons per family per day.
The EPA has been a careless stewards of Utah’s natural resources. This environmental emergency could cost Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico millions of dollars as it disrupts and damages ecosystems, economies, water resources, wildlife, and tourism. In our desert state, wise stewardship of our water is essential.
We are not yet certain what the totality of the impact will be on agriculture, grazing, the environment, and the economy – but one thing is certain: the EPA needs to held accountable for this serious disruption in our waterways. They should also reimburse the states for all costs incurred as a result of their errors. This is another urgent reminder that the states must be allowed to exercise our Constitutional rights to have stewardship over our lands and our resources.