An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) truck hauling waste from a Colorado mine, which was the site of a toxic spill caused by the agency, crashed into a creek Monday, spewing some of its sludge into the water, officials said.
The spill is a byproduct of an EPA wastewater treatment plant cleaning up water draining from the Gold King Mine. Agency contractors breached the mine in 2015 and released 3 million gallons of wastewater and heavy metals into nearby waterways — the plume of sludge eventually spilled into the San Juan River.
An EPA-led crew inadvertently triggered the spill while excavating at the mine entrance. The Obama administration and Congress investigated the mine spill, but no employees or contractors have been punished or charged.
The agency eventually installed a temporary treatment plant near the mine two months after the spill to clean up wastewater. The truck that crashed slid off the shoulder of a mountain road and dumped the sludge back into the same creek. The driver was unhurt. (RELATED: On Gold King Mine Spill Anniversary, EPA’s Pruitt Says Obama ‘Failed’ To Protect The Environment)
Utah filed an administrative claim in February 2017 seeking $1.9 billion in compensation for the spill. Navajo Nation filed a $162 million claim against EPA in 2016, including $3.1 million in uncompensated costs and $159 million to pay for new water supplies and monitoring.
New Mexico also filed suit against the agency in May 2016, arguing the EPA and its contractors were “grossly negligent” in their cleaning up of the mine and violated federal environmental laws.
The EPA under former Administrator Gina McCarthy spent $29 million cleaning up the mine spill, but only agreed to pay out $4.5 million to state and local governments. EPA rejected $20.4 million in additional claims filed by state and tribal governments.
The Obama administration rejected 79 claims against the EPA in January, and by March paid about $90,000 in reimbursements for claims that had been filed before December 2016.
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