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Utah AG Works On Gold King Spill Damages

Pollution from the Gold King Mine
Eric Vance
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Pollution from the Gold King Mine spill has generally declined to pre-spill levels, but environmental officials will be monitoring for contaminants for years to come.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes wants to be sure Utah is compensated fully after the 2015 Gold King Mine Spill. He’s consulting outside attorneys, but there’s been no decision yet whether Utah will follow New Mexico’s lead and file suit.

“Utah’s taking a very cautious and deliberate approach to this,” says Reyes’ spokesman, Daniel Burton. “We don’t want to do a ready-fire-aim type of a case, but we want to make sure that we are getting the most we can out of those parties that damaged the state.”

Contaminated mine water flowed down the San Juan River in Utah and into Lake Powell two summers ago, but the fallout continues.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has taken responsibility for spilling more than 3 million gallons from the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. And earlier this month, the agency detailed more than $6.2 million in compensation to the affected tribes, communities and states, with $867,120.00 going to Utah.

But the claims and damage requests have run into the hundreds of millions, and Burton says the attorney general wants Utah to be at the table as the issues are sorted out. 

“At the end of the day, we’re going to see that Utah’s going to come out on top,” he says.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, introduced a bill last year that covers the damages of those affected by the spill and long term monitoring of its impacts.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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