An additional $600,000 has been set aside by the Environmental Protection Agency for a real-time warning system that will be installed in the Animas and San Juan rivers to alert local governments to pollution.
The EPA had set aside $2 million for water and sediment monitoring, but that was found to be inadequate, Shaun McGrath, the Region 8 administrator, told the Durango City Council on Tuesday. A total of $465,000 was allocated to the state of Colorado.
States and tribes will use the additional funds for a system they started collaborating on in February, McGrath said.
There is no timeline for the additional warning system to be installed, he said.
Sen. Michael Bennet, Sen. Corey Gardner and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton have pushed for additional funding to provide better data to communities along the Animas and San Juan watersheds, according to a news release.
“We are glad the EPA has heeded these concerns, and we’ll continue to work to make sure it meets its commitment to fully reimburse the community for expenses related to cleanup and recovery from the spill,” Bennet said in the release.
Councilor Dean Brookie lauded the additional funding.
“It will allow for a more robust and state-of-the-art system than was previously achievable,” said Councilor Dean Brookie.
In the event of another acidic mine wastewater spill like the 3 million gallons released by the EPA on Aug. 5, 2015, the system will ensure downstream communities wouldn’t have to wait for a person to inform them of the emergency, Brookie said.
There are 30 testing locations along the Animas, San Juan and Colorado rivers, Brookie said.
The EPA is also considering additional reimbursements to the local governments, including the city and La Plata County, McGrath said.
State, local and tribal governments have received $881,152 in reimbursements.
The city has been promised $2,471 to cover a tour city councilors took related to Superfund designation. But the city has asked for about $5.7 million in compensation over the next 15 years, which would include the amount spent on the immediate response and ongoing monitoring of river health.
“Reimbursements, I know, is an issue that you care deeply about,” McGrath said.
The city wants to provide the EPA with all the information necessary to help fit within the federal guidelines, Durango City Manager Ron LeBlanc told McGrath.
“The city wants to work as a team with the EPA and the county,” he said.