Lawsuits against EPA contractor involved with Gold King Mine spill move ahead

FILE--In this Aug. 12, 2015, file photo, mine wastewater flows through a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King Mine chemical accident in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo. Crumbling mine tunnels awash with polluted waters perforate the Colorado mountains, and scientists may one day send robots creeping through the pitch-black passages to study the mysterious currents that sometimes burst to the surface with devastating effects. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, file)

Albuquerque, N.M. • Legal challenges against a federal contractor involved in a mine waste spill that polluted rivers in three Western states are being allowed to move forward.

The New Mexico Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday that a federal judge is allowing the state's lawsuit and a similar claim brought by the Navajo Nation against contractor Environmental Restoration LLC to proceed.

State officials say they're looking forward to working with the tribe to recoup damages done to the environment, the economy and cultural sites.

Lawsuits also are pending against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado.

An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently triggered the spill while excavating at the mine's entrance. The spill tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with heavy metals.