The wait continues for victims of Gold King mine spill

Colorado’s Animas River turned a shade of yellow after the Gold King Mine spill in August 2015. This accident was caused by a government agency, not a mining company. (Image from archives.)

Three years after the wastewater spill at the ancient Gold King mine in Colorado, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is still reviewing about 380 claims for lost income, fallen property values and other losses endured by people that live or work in the areas surrounding the mine.

According to the Associated Press, the EPA provided an update on its progress regarding the case but did not say when it might finish the review or when anyone might be paid. The agency owes millions of dollars to individuals, business and communities. The victims, the news bureau says, feel misled.

Most of them submitted compensation requests under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows citizens to ask the federal government to repay for economic losses and injuries caused by negligence or wrongful action by federal employees.

The Gold King mine accident took place in 2015 after one of the EPA’s clean-up teams working at the site accidentally caused the spill of over 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater. After nine hours of a continuous flow, the plume ended up polluting the Animas river and its tributaries with the equivalent of four to seven days of ongoing acid drainage from the mine.

Initially, the EPA paid out millions of dollars to state, tribal and local governments for the cost of responding to the spill and for water tests. Later on, in January 2017, the federal government said it would not pay for any economic damages because sovereign immunity prohibits most lawsuits against the government.

Even though in 2017 the then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt said he would review all the claims, no payments have been done to date.

According to AP, the victims now wonder if they will ever get paid.