ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is acknowledging the concerns of officials in New Mexico and elsewhere that spring runoff could stir up contaminants left behind by the Gold King Mine spill in southern Colorado.
EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry, in a letter sent this week to the state’s congressional delegation, said the federal agency is providing $2 million for long-term monitoring and planning. States and tribes can apply their share to monitoring this spring.
Curry also confirmed the agency is reviewing the state’s most recent request to be reimbursed $1.5 million for expenses related to the August 2015 spill.
In early March, the New Mexico delegation told the EPA it had concerns over delays in compensation for expenses and damages caused by the spill, which fouled rivers in three Western states.
New Mexico Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn said Thursday that the $2 million offered by the EPA is less than half of what it would take to fund a long-term monitoring effort that would protect communities.
Flynn said New Mexico would be entitled to just a fraction of that, since the funds would be shared among states and tribal communities that were affected.
“Although we remain hopeful that EPA will step up, do more, and fund more comprehensive monitoring for the communities downstream of their Gold King Mine blowout, we just aren’t seeing it yet,” Flynn told The Associated Press.
New Mexico plans to sue the federal government, the state of Colorado and the owners of two mines over the spill, which stemmed from the work of an EPA cleanup crew.
The spill polluted the Animas and San Juan rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc. Water utilities briefly shut down their intake valves and farmers stopped drawing from the affected rivers.
The spill also ignited a political and legal firestorm. Republicans in Congress have been harshly critical of the EPA.
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press
(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)