The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Friday it will pay another $1.2 million to tribes, states and local governments affected by a massive mine waste spill in southwestern Colorado.
The announcement came on the anniversary of the blowout at the Gold King Mine near Silverton.
An EPA-led crew inadvertently triggered the spill during preliminary cleanup work on Aug. 5, 2015. The blowout released 3 million gallons of wastewater carrying arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.
The spill tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Three Indian reservations in Colorado and New Mexico were affected.
The EPA said water quality quickly returned to pre-spill levels — a point officials in New Mexico continue to dispute, saying the state’s independent monitoring still show high lead levels being detected in river sediment near Farmington.
The EPA has so far made $465,000 available to New Mexico to address the spill’s aftermath. But that amount is just a fraction of the $6 million that Environment Department Secretary Ryan Flynn says New Mexico needs for cleanup and monitoring over a five-year period.
“They haven’t provided anywhere close to the funding that is necessary,” Flynn said.
New Mexico did not receive money in the EPA’s latest funding round.
The latest EPA reimbursements include the cost of field surveys, water sampling, lab tests and personnel.
Some agencies have complained that the EPA has been slow to repay their costs and has refused to cover some expenses. The EPA said that in addition to the money announced Friday, it has already paid $1.9 million in response costs and is giving the states and tribes another $2 million to monitor water quality.
The EPA says it has now spent more than $29 million on spill-related costs.
Reimbursements announced Friday:
- Navajo Nation: $445,000.
- Southern Ute Indian Tribe: $106,000.
- Utah state government: $258,000.
- Colorado state government: $161,000.
- La Plata County, Colorado: $99,000.
- San Juan County and Silverton, Colorado: $43,000.
- Durango, Colorado: $43,000.