SANTA FE, NM (AP) – Officials in New Mexico are looking for ideas for restoration projects to repair damage from a 2015 spill that fouled rivers in three western states with a bright yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals.
The state office of the natural resources trustee said on Wednesday the projects would be funded through a proposed $ 1 million settlement with the defendants – Sunnyside Gold Corp. and its parent companies.
The spill released 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of sewage from the idle Gold King mine in southwest Colorado. A crew hired by the United States Environmental Protection Agency triggered the spill as they attempted to dig the opening of the mine for possible cleanup.
The trustee’s office said the contamination had spilled into the Animas and San Juan rivers and negatively affected New Mexico residents, the agricultural and recreational tourism industries, and natural resources along those waterways.
The state and the defendants reached a settlement in January that includes a payment of $ 1 million by the mining defendants to the trustee to implement natural resource restoration projects. Court approval of the settlement is pending.
Litigation against other parties, including the United States Environmental Protection Agency and its contractors, is ongoing.
As for restoration projects, they must benefit surface water, wildlife, agriculture, outdoor recreation or other industries that depend on a healthy river. The deadline for submitting ideas is August 21.
The trustee’s office plans to select the winning projects and publish a final restoration plan by January.
“Communities whose jobs, livelihoods and the environment have been directly affected by the liberation of the Gold King mine will know better how this funding can be put to good use,” Trustee Maggie Hart Stebbins said in a statement. communicated. “We recognize that this funding will not fully repair or restore all of the injuries caused by the liberation of the Gold King mine, but it represents an important first step towards this goal. “
After the spill, the EPA designated the Gold King and 47 other mining sites in the region a Superfund clean-up district. The agency is still reviewing options for a broader cleanup.