EPA awards Navajo Nation money for Gold King Mine spill
FARMINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Friday it is awarding about $1.2 million in reimbursements to tribal and government agencies in the Four Regions region, including the Navajo Nation, for costs associated with the response to the Gold King Mine spill.
The announcement issued by the EPA came on the one-year anniversary of EPA crews accidentally triggering the release of about 880,000 pounds of heavy metals into a tributary of the Animas River near Silverton, Colo., while cleaning up abandoned mining sites.
According to the press release, the Navajo Nation will receive about $445,000 in reimbursements for costs associated with the response to the spill, including field evaluations, water quality sampling, laboratory work and personnel costs. The tribe previously was awarded about $158,000 by the EPA.
About $710,000 will be distributed to state, tribal and local governments in Colorado and Utah, according to an EPA press release.
The state of New Mexico was not included in the latest round of funding under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, also known as Superfund. New Mexico was previously awarded about $1.1 million in a previous round of funding, according to the EPA’s website.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., said in a statement he was pleased the EPA has reimbursed the Navajo Nation for its response to this “terrible incident.”
Heinrich, along with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act last year, which would require the EPA to compensate individuals impacted by the spill and require the agency to fund and implement long-term water-quality monitoring for the Navajo Nation and states affected.
“It’s been a year since a large plume of bright orange toxic waste was released from the abandoned Gold King Mine, and the impacts linger on in Indian Country and across the Four Corners region,” Heinrich said in the statement. “The Navajo Nation and residents throughout San Juan County are still struggling to recover from the loss of income and uncertainty surrounding the long-term effects of the blowout.”
Some of the response costs included about $130,000 to support the Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center, about $72,000 to monitor drinking water and haul water, and about $71,000 to support visits by the Navajo Department of Agriculture to investigate possible needs for water and feed for farmers.
According to its press release, the EPA has dedicated more than $29 million to respond to the incident with the majority of the funds dedicated to stabilizing the mine and reducing the acid mine drainage at the Gold King Mine site.
Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.
Editors note: This story, originally posted on Aug. 7, has been modified to add the names of two lawmakers who were part of a group that introduced the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act of 2015. They are U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján , D-N.M., and U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.