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EPA working through Gold King Mine spill reimbursements

La Plata County seeking two payments from agency for spill

La Plata County and the Southern Ute Indian Tribe may have as many as 180 additional days to reach an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency on reimbursement for costs associated with the Gold King Mine spill.

The county and the tribe said last week that EPA headquarters in Washington hadn’t responded to multiple requests for an extension.

Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton asked the EPA to make sure local governments and tribes are fully reimbursed.

The EPA worked with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to obtain a purchase order to effectively speed up the process of reimbursement. For La Plata County, that will amount to just under $200,000. The county submitted that request in September.

La Plata County Finance Director Diane Sorensen said Monday that the purchase order amounted to $197,792, which the county may see as soon as this month.

However, there is still an additional $126,115 in spill-related costs for which the county seeks reimbursement, Sorensen said. That amount requires a cooperative agreement among the various parties.

La Plata County commissioners, San Juan Health Department personnel, county emergency management officials and others have weighed in on the co-op agreement.

Details have yet to be finalized, but the document is expected to address both short-term and long-term solutions to mine pollution and maintaining the health of the environment and residents.

The spill unleashed about 3 million gallons of acidic, heavy metal-laden sludge from the abandoned mine into the Animas River on Aug. 5, affecting three southwestern states. An EPA crew working on remedial efforts at the mouth of the mine accidentally caused the spill.

In the weeks afterward, officials began drafting a co-op agreement to recoup money spent on emergency response, overtime and other costs.

jpace@durnagoherald.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Apr 21, 2016
EPA checks for Gold King spill dribble in to county
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