- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico’s congressional delegation has concerns with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over delays in compensation for expenses and damages caused by the Gold King Mine spill.

The delegation announced Monday that it sent a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. It asks her agency to process millions of dollars in reimbursement claims submitted by the state and the Navajo Nation and to set up a claims office to begin processing compensation for victims.

The lawmakers also want EPA to adopt a robust, long-term plan for the independent monitoring of the area’s water quality.

“We are deeply troubled that these two issues are still far from resolved six months after the spill,” the lawmakers wrote.

The delegation also warned that the spring snowmelt will increase water flow in the Animas and San Juan rivers and that could stir up lead, arsenic and other contaminants deposited in the wake of August 2015 spill.

The EPA recently announced that it plans to return to the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado this spring or early summer to resume preliminary cleanup work after it triggered the 3-million-gallon spill of wastewater that fouled rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The spill forced the shutdown of public water supplies and left farmers in northwestern New Mexico and on the Navajo reservation worried about long-term effects to their irrigation supplies.

“Many are still feeling the economic impacts and health uncertainties of the spill,” the delegation wrote.

The EPA is considering Superfund status for the Gold King and 47 other mining sites in the Bonita Peak Mining District north of Silverton, which would free up millions of dollars in federal funds for an extensive cleanup.

The EPA estimates that about 5.4 million gallons of acidic mine waste flows from those sites each day, eventually reaching the Animas River.

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