Will Ferguson & Associates Represents 13 Clients Seeking $120 Million in Gold King Mine Spill
Firm’s Clients Among 400 Parties Still Awaiting Payment from EPA Two Years Later
The Albuquerque law firm of Will Ferguson & Associates is representing 13 clients seeking $120 million in damages from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s role in the Gold King Mine spill in 2015.
The claims were filed under the federal Tort Claims Act, which allows private entities to seek reparations in the event of wrongdoing by the federal government.
On Aug. 5, 2015, a contractor working for the EPA triggered the release of water containing an estimated 880,000 pounds of toxic heavy metals from the long-shuttered Gold King Mine near Silverton in Southern Colorado.
The ensuing wave of polluted orange-colored water from the mine coursed its way down a creek feeding the Animas River, then flowed into the San Juan River and finally the Colorado River.
In all, the release of 3 million gallons of water containing arsenic, copper, zinc, lead and cadmium led to the closure of the river system across three states and the Navajo Nation to all recreation, irrigation and drinking water supply.
“The claims cited lost wages and business income, ruined vacations, property damage, loss of property value and health problems,” The Associated Press reported.
New Mexico, Utah and the Navajo nation have all sued the EPA for damages. Additionally, the state of New Mexico has sued the state of Colorado, charging it allowed decades of lax enforcement of its own environmental regulations.
The Will Ferguson tort claim is one of about 400 requests under the federal Tort Claims Act that seeks about $318 million in compensation from the EPA.
The amount of damages actually claimed recently was the subject of some wrangling. There have been complaints that the EPA overstated the total dollar value of the claims pending against it, possibly through sloppy record-keeping.
The AP, which has kept close tabs on the damage claims’ total via public records requests, cited EPA documents indicating that the Will Ferguson & Associates’ clients seek $220 million.
Will Ferguson, the firm's managing attorney, told The AP the extra $100 million may be a holdover from an earlier claim that the firm later revised downward, but which was never deleted from the EPA's list. An initial request pegged the Will Ferguson & Associates clients’ losses at $900 million and the total sought by all claimants at $2.5 billion.
The firm’s clients, as well as hundreds of other claimants, have expressed frustration at the EPA’s failure to compensate them for their losses more than two years after the incident.
The EPA recently announced that it has nearly finished its review of the claims, which the agency had promised would be completed by the end of 2017, The AP reported.
Will Ferguson & Associates is New Mexico’s largest personal injury firm and its attorneys are experts in gathering evidence in cases of government negligence filed either as lawsuits or submitted under the federal Tort Claims Act. Reach Will Ferguson & Associates at (505) 633-7070.