U.S. EPA Update on Gold King Mine Response Efforts for August 15, 2015
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is committed to working closely with response agencies and state and local officials to ensure public safety, respond to concerns and evaluate impact to water contaminated by the spill. Today EPA provided the following updates:
The Last 24 Hours
New Mexico announced its determination that private domestic water well use along the Animas River can resume based on water quality sampling results collected by both the New Mexico Environment Department and U.S. EPA. EPA and NMED collected 34 water quality samples from private domestic wells yesterday.
Mine Discharge Treatment
The Gold King Mine is releasing water at the rate of approximately 600 gallons per minute. Water continues to be treated at a series of settling ponds before being discharged to Cement Creek.
EPA is collecting water and sediment samples from Lake Powell near the outlet of the San Juan River, where we believe the contaminants may have reached. EPA expects no significant impacts to Lake Powell associated with the Gold King Mine release.
Unified EPA Area Command in Durango, Colorado
The results of EPA sediment samples collected in the Animas River from Bakers Bridge to north of Durango were released on August 14. EPA’s review of data indicates metals concentrations in sediment are generally consistent with pre-release levels. Slightly elevated results for some metals were compared to risk-based screening levels. No results exceeded recreational screening levels.
Water quality data show the water meets criteria for agricultural purposes established by the state of Colorado. Irrigation ditches that impacted crops and livestock are being flushed and coming back online to meet water needs.
On Aug. 14, the City of Durango opened its drinking water intakes in the Animas River and reopened the river for recreational use.
EPA, state and local response teams continue to evaluate water quality in shallow domestic wells adjacent to the Animas River.
Unified Incident Command in Farmington, New Mexico
For New Mexico, EPA has a team of 83 employees consisting of federal on-scene coordinators, water quality experts, technicians and contractors supporting the response to the spill. Daily information meetings at the Farmington Convention Center have been suspended for the weekend and will resume on Monday, Aug. 17.
EPA continues to collect water quality samples from nine locations in the river near intakes for Aztec, Farmington, Lower Valley Water Users Association, Morning Star Water Supply System and the North Star Water User Association. EPA will continue to sample, analyze, and make data available to support local decision makers moving forward to allow them to make the best-informed decisions. EPA validated sampling data for the Animas and San Juan Rivers from the Northern Border of New Mexico to Navajo Nation collected from Aug. 9 to Aug. 10, 2015.
EPA also continues to collect daily water quality samples from 11 locations in the Navajo Nation, from Hogback to Mexican Hat. Starting today, the EPA, in coordination with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, will double agricultural water deliveries to approximately 100,000 gallons per day to various locations. The agency continues to work very closely with the Navajo Nation EPA, going house to house to answer questions.
New Mexico announced its decision initiating a plan for the flushing of irrigation ditches along the Animas River. The irrigation ditches will be flushed for 12 hours before normal irrigation and livestock watering operations can resume today. EPA delivered 328,914 gallons of water to seven agricultural and nine livestock locations. There are currently twenty trucks delivering water.
EPA Staff Deployed
EPA has deployed more than 210 employees and contractors for the response. The U.S. Coast Guard has provided 14 responders. There are also currently at least 20 different federal, state and local agencies involved in the response working to help ensure the health and safety of the public.
Claims Process Update
A claims process exists for compensating citizens who suffer personal injury or property damage caused by U.S. government actions. The process is available in EPA's regulations at 40 CFR Part 10, and includes guidance on documentation that may be required to support claims for loss of employment and loss of income, among other claims.
Claims for monetary compensation may be filed by submitting a Standard Form 95 specifying the nature of the loss suffered and EPA actions, if known, causing the loss or damage to property.
EPA is not offering immediate reimbursements for damages from the Gold King Mine water and it is not true that someone submitting a claim limits or waives his or her future rights.
EPA’s Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) regulation provides that a person may amend their claim form at any time prior to reaching a settlement with EPA, or before the person files a lawsuit under the FTCA. Additionally, a person claiming an injury or damage has two years from the date of the event to file a claim with EPA under the FTCA. (40 CFR Part 10).
Standard Form 95 is not required to present a claim under the FTCA, but it is a convenient format for supplying the information necessary to bring an FTCA claim. Please note that a completed form must state a claim for money damages in a “sum certain” amount (that is, a specific amount) claimed for personal injury, death, or injury to or loss of property. In addition, if a sum certain is not specified in Standard Form 95 block 12d, or in accompanying information, a submission cannot be considered a valid presentation of a claim.
Although EPA's regulations state that it has six months to resolve a claim, EPA will make every effort to respond to Gold King Mine release claims as soon as possible. Claims must be presented to EPA within two years after the claim accrues.