- Associated Press - Saturday, February 6, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Gov. John Hickenlooper says he believes there is enough support to get a Superfund listing following the Gold King Mine spill.

The governor met Friday with officials from Durango, Silverton and San Juan County. Opponents have expressed concern it could hurt the image of their communities.

The governor has until Feb. 29 to meet a deadline to propose the federal designation, which could provide substantial federal help.

A listing would designate the site as blighted, allowing for federal funding for long-term restoration projects. Those projects could include a treatment facility.

An EPA cleanup crew accidentally unleashed millions of gallons of contaminated wastewater in August at the inactive Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. It fouled rivers in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico with contaminants including arsenic and lead, temporarily shutting down drinking-water supplies and raising concerns about long-term effects on agriculture.

“These communities have made it clear that a Superfund designation is the most viable path to address pollution in the affected area and protect our public health and environment,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re all working around the clock to ensure that remaining points of negotiation are resolved in time for the March Federal Register listing in order to move this process forward.”

San Juan County Administrator William Tookey said communities are willing to reconsider previous qualms about the federal program.

“There’s been a perception that because we haven’t gone out and requested Superfund that we were somewhat anti-clean water, which we haven’t been,” Tookey said. “We recognized that … if in fact a treatment plant is a solution, the resources weren’t there without a Superfund site.”

The Environmental Protection Agency in most instances won’t list a site without a governor’s support letter, the Durango Herald reported (http://tinyurl.com/gn2uazz).

The EPA has admitted fault for the spill, which resulted in an estimated 3 million gallons of sludge pouring into the Animas River.

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Information from: Durango Herald, http://www.durangoherald.com

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