Colorado county agrees to $2.4 million plan for Gold King Mine spill remediation

December 23, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the La Plata County, CO commissioners gave unanimous support to a 10-year agreement that provides $2.4 million by the federal agency for remedial efforts related to the Aug. 5 Gold King Mine spill.

The EPA has assumed responsibility for a breach at the abandoned mine portal that sent 3 million gallons of mining waste water into the Animas and San Juan rivers.

EPA officials have until Feb. 1 to sign off on the agreement, which includes eight tasks for ensuring the future health and safety of the county’s residents and environment. Those include continued work with Wright Water Engineers, which has conducted for the county an analyses on the Animas River’s health, independent of the EPA, The Durango Herald reported.

Other initiatives include a real-time water-monitoring system to alert the county of changes in water quality, developing a response plan for future environmental incidents and hiring a contractor for community outreach – to explain pre- and post-spill data to the public.

The county has accomplished one of the tasks, which is to investigate the feasibility of a Superfund designation for the Silverton area.

County Manager Joe Kerby will serve as recovery manager and oversee, with other county staff, the implementation of the agreement.

The $2.4 million, to be spent over 10 years as the plan is carried out, is an estimate, and it would be allocated as needed.

The EPA has reimbursed about $200,000 to the county for expenditures between Aug. 12 and Sept. 11.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to postpone until January a vote on an official statement of support of a Superfund designation for the Upper Cement Creek Basin.

Silverton and San Juan County officials will meet again with the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in early January.

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