EPA Won’t Pay Gold King Mine Spill Claims

Jan 17, 2017

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will not pay $1.2 billion in claims to those affected by the 2015 Gold King Mine spill. The agency says damages caused by the incident in Colorado don’t qualify for compensation. Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports.

Roy Etcitty points out debris on the San Juan River that could be from the wastewater that flowed from the Gold King Mine spill in 2015. Etcitty grew up on the San Juan River and is one of the many farmers affected by the contamination of the San Juan River.
Credit Denver Post

Attorneys for the EPA and U.S. Justice Department say 73 claims made after the spill don’t meet the proper requirements for payment.

Many were filed by farmers on the Navajo Nation who lost crops after pollution in the San Juan River forced them to stop irrigating.

The EPA spilled more than 3 million gallons of mine waste into Southwestern waterways a year-and-a-half ago. It was ruled human error. The agency says it’s taken responsibility, and contamination has returned to pre-spill levels. Tribal leaders and other elected officials, however, are still concerned about water quality.

Those who’ve been denied claims will have six months to challenge the decision in U.S. District Court.

Historically, most lawsuits against the government are prohibited under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.