Colorado gets $5 million more from U.S. to help clean up Gold King Mine blowout |

Colorado gets $5 million more from U.S. to help clean up Gold King Mine blowout

The 2015 spill damaged the Animas and San Juan rivers, and Colorado wildlands are still paying the price

Water flows through a series of sediment retention ponds built to reduce heavy metal and chemical contaminants from the Gold King Mine outside Silverton in Aug 2015.
Brennan Linsley/AP Photo

The federal government will pay Colorado $5 million more for ongoing cleanup of the Gold King Mine blowout in 2015 that soiled the Animas and San Juan rivers, adding to other cleanup payments for the shaft-riddled Bonita Peak Mining District. 

The latest settlement, announced Thursday by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, says the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are liable for damages because they manage property within the mining district, which was declared a Superfund cleanup priority in 2016. The EPA is also liable under the deal, because it was the agency doing reclamation work on a water blockage at Gold King in August 2015 when acid-tainted mine water blew out of the shaft under intense pressure. 

The EPA built an interim water treatment plant to slow the river contamination after the blowout, and other reclamation work continues around the mine and dozens of others abandoned in what is now the Superfund district. 

“We have vigilantly pursued claims for natural resource damages and will work hard to invest the funds we have recovered to best serve the affected communities,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser, whose office negotiated the settlement on behalf of state agencies grouped as the Colorado Natural Resources Trustees. 

“Inactive and abandoned mines that operated before Colorado had mining laws continue to have unfortunate and ongoing impacts to Colorado’s waters and landscape,” said Dan Gibbs, a trustee and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Cleanup issues in the district “remain challenging and I appreciate the cooperation among the trustees and the federal government in settling our State’s natural resource damage claims.”

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