COLORADO, JANUARY 16, 2017 -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied $1.2 billion in claims for economic losses stemming from a 2015 toxic wastewater spill at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado.
In a statement, the EPA said it was "not legally able to pay" damage claims filed by farmers, ranchers and others; as federal law grants immunity to government agencies should "discretionary" action taken by an employee cause significant damage to property.
Reuters reports that in August 2015, an EPA contractor hired to slow seepage of pollutants from the mine breached a tunnel wall, letting loose a gush of wastewater that had built up inside the mine.
Three million gallons of contaminated water, containing 900,000 pounds of heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury were then released into a creek that feeds the Animas River, the San Juan River in New Mexico and Lake Powell in Utah.
The EPA decision could be appealed to the federal court system within six months.
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