EPA Pays CO Mine Spill Costs

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 @ 07:05 AM gHale

States, tribes and local governments will end up reimbursed about $1 million for their costs after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally triggered a massive wastewater spill from a Colorado mine.

The money will go to Colorado, New Mexico and Utah state governments, the Navajo Nation and Southern Ute Indian Tribe, and Colorado counties and towns, the EPA said Thursday.

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Most of the money is for the cost of responding to the spill from the inactive Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado last August. The agency said it is considering requests for another $570,000 in expenses from the immediate aftermath.

The EPA is also considering whether to designate the area around the Gold King Mine as a Superfund site, which would free up millions of dollars in federal aid for a broad cleanup.

An EPA-led crew inadvertently released 3 million gallons of water containing arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury and other dangerous pollutants while doing preliminary cleanup work.

Water utilities briefly shut down their intake valves and farmers stopped drawing from the rivers.

The EPA said the water quality quickly returned to pre-spill levels.

The spill reached rivers that flow through the three states. The rivers cross the Southern Ute reservation in Colorado and the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

The agency provided a list of reimbursements after officials in La Plata County, Colorado, complained the EPA turned down their request for up to $2.4 million over 10 years for future expenses, including monitoring water quality.

The EPA said it doesn’t cover future expenses under the type of agreement the county proposed, but it is providing $2 million to the three states and two tribes for long-term water monitoring. County officials said that differs from what the EPA told them earlier.

The EPA provided a breakdown of the reimbursements it is making for costs the states, tribes and local governments have already incurred:
• $334,000 to the state of New Mexico.
• $221,000 to Silverton and San Juan County, both in Colorado. The Gold King Mine is near Silverton in the county.
• $208,000 to La Plata County, Colorado.
• $157,000 to the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. In addition, the EPA itself spent $1.1 million on the Navajo Nation responding to the spill, the agency said.
• $116,000 to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe in Colorado.
• $2,400 to Durango, Colorado, in La Plata County.

The EPA is still considering three requests for reimbursement for expenses already incurred:
1. $304,000 from the state of Colorado.
2. $140,000 from La Plata County, Colorado.
3. $128,000 from the state of Utah.

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