Latest: EPA seeks to dismiss Gold King lawsuits

Agency says it’s already working on cleanup of old mining mess.

  • EPA contractors prepare the staging area for replacement filter bags at the Gladstone Water Treatment Plant in Gladstone, Colorado, which began treating discharge from the Gold King Mine in October 2015.

    Envrionmental Protection Agency
 

BACKSTORY

On Aug. 5, 2015, Environmental Protection Agency workers at the long-abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado, accidentally released 3 million gallons of acidic water. The orange plume, laden with iron, zinc, cadmium and arsenic, flowed into the Animas River, then on into New Mexico and Utah (“Silverton’s Gold King Reckoning,” HCN, 5/2/16). Those two states and the Navajo Nation filed lawsuits seeking to recoup millions of dollars in cleanup costs from the EPA.

FOLLOWUP

In late July, the EPA filed a motion to dismiss the combined lawsuits. The agency says that court intervention is unnecessary because it’s already working on cleaning up the mess — the Gold King and 47 other mine sites got Superfund status in 2016. The EPA ran out of room for storing the sludge waste from water treatment, and in mid-June, workers began moving it to a controversial new site northeast of Silverton. Critics say that location endangers fish, and in early July, a sludge truck crashed, spilling 9 cubic yards into a creek. The EPA is still working on a long-term cleanup plan for the Superfund sites in the Upper Animas watershed.

 

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