WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation has submitted a claim of more than $160 million in damages to the federal government over last year’s mine waste spill that fouled rivers in three Western states.
A cleanup team led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency triggered the August 2015 spill while working at the Gold King Mine near Silverton.
The 3 million gallon blowout tainted rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah with tons of toxic heavy metals including arsenic, mercury and lead.
In a letter Monday to the EPA, attorneys say the tribe awaits more than $3 million in unreimbursed expenses for costs through Sept. 30 to deal with the spill that contaminated the San Juan River.
The tribe also is seeking $159 million for 10 years of health monitoring and other assessments.
According to EPA data, as of Aug. 5 of this year, the agency has paid $1,067,756 to the Navajo Nation.
By comparison, Silverton and San Juan County (Colorado) requested and received $380,000 for costs incurred from the mine blowout.
La Plata County has received $172,000 in costs, and is still asking for another $90,000, county spokeswoman Megan Graham said in September.
And the city of Durango was reimbursed $146,875 of its $444,032 request.
EPA data indicates the agency has paid more than $5.2 million in connection to the spill, as of Aug. 5.
Herald Staff Writer Jonathan Romeo contributed to this report.