The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding more than $445,000 to reimburse the Navajo Nation for response costs for actions associated with the Aug. 5, 2015, Gold King Mine release near Silverton, Colorado. This is in addition to $157,000 awarded in March. These funds include costs incurred for various activities associated with the release response, including field evaluations, water quality sampling, laboratory analyses and personnel.
The EPA continues to evaluate state, tribal and local response costs and has reimbursed about $3 million to date through cooperative agreements established with partners.
The announcement is part of EPA’s ongoing evaluation of costs consistent with the agency’s authorities and the requirements under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) or Superfund. The funds reimburse documented and allowable response costs submitted by the Navajo Nation, including more than $130,000 to support activities of the Navajo Nation Emergency Operations Center, over $72,000 for drinking water monitoring and hauling, and over $71,000 to support site visits to farmers by the Navajo Department of Agriculture to assess needs for agricultural water and feed during the response.
One year after the Gold King Mine release, the EPA continues to invest resources and work collaboratively with affected stakeholders to achieve permanent solutions to issues associated with abandoned mines, prevent future releases and protect water resources. The EPA has dedicated more than $29 million to respond to the incident and provide for continued water quality monitoring in the Animas and San Juan rivers. Most of these funds are being used to stabilize the mine and mitigate ongoing acid mine drainage at the Gold King Mine. The EPA is also providing more than $2.6 million to states and tribes to develop a better understanding of the overall water quality conditions in the Animas and San Juan rivers and support real-time monitoring of water resources and to improve the notification process for any future incidents. The Navajo Nation has received $465,000 toward that effort.
Contamination from more than 160,000 abandoned mines in the West continues to pose costly and complex challenges for the region’s states, tribes and communities. The EPA is collaborating with partners on the best practices and lessons to address the legacy of abandoned mines. The Upper Animas Watershed has historically received high loadings of metals associated with the discharge of 5.4 mgd from mining, highly mineralized formations and mines in the area. For the communities affected by the decades of contaminated mine drainage into the Animas and San Juan River watersheds, EPA has proposed a Superfund National Priorities Listing for the Bonita Peak Mining District, which includes the Gold King Mine, and is committed to pursuing collaborative approaches to improve water quality impacted by pollution that crosses state and tribal borders.