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EPA gives La Plata County a check for another $63,000

To pay for ‘direct expenses’

In the ongoing quest that is pursuing reimbursement from the Environmental Protection Agency for Gold King Mine spill expenses, another $63,406 is coming to La Plata County. The funds are allocated to “direct expenses” related to the spill.

“The good news is that we have $63,000 more than we had yesterday,” County Commissioner Julie Westendorff said. “The bad news is we don’t know exactly what it covers.”

The money comes just weeks after an EPA official informed local governmental agencies that reimbursement in full isn’t feasible, leaving the county unpaid for almost $259,000 spent on personnel, travel, water monitoring and other expenses.

“I was under the impression there would be no money to spend on needs going forward,” Westendorff said, “and anything we get is reimbursement.”

County Manager Joe Kerby said the money was the second award from the cooperation agreement the county signed with the EPA.

“I was notified by email this morning (Monday) that they are continuing to review our other expenses,” he said. “I spoke with Shaun McGrath (EPA Region 8 administrator), and he was cautiously optimistic they’ll be willing to pay some expenses after Oct. 31, which is the line they originally drew in the sand.”

There was no word on whether the city of Durango or San Juan County and Silverton received any additional funds in this disbursement. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., both released statements Monday night mentioning only the La Plata County allocation.

“They’re evaluating this in phases,” Kerby said. “Shaun said he should know more by the end of the week, but EPA timelines aren’t always accurate, so I hope we’ll know in the next few weeks.”

abutler@durangoherald.com

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