US clears way for cleanup of Colorado mine after huge spill

FILE--In this Aug 11, 2015, file photo, Navajo Nation Council Delegate Davis Filfred walks along the San Juan River in Montezuma Creek, Utah, near where a spill containing lead and arsenic from the abandoned Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colo., leaked into the Animas River, which flows into the San Juan River on Aug. 5, 2016. The Navajo Nation is the latest to pursue legal action against the federal government over a massive mine waste spill that tainted rivers in three Western states. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)

DENVER (AP) – A Colorado mine that spilled 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in three Western states has been designated a Superfund site.

Read: EPA’s National Priority List »

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s action Wednesday clears the way for a multimillion-dollar federal cleanup of the Gold King Mine and 47 other nearby mining-related sites.

The EPA also added nine other sites in eight states and Puerto Rico to the Superfund list.

A federal crew inadvertently triggered the Colorado spill during preliminary cleanup work at the inactive mine in August 2015, tainting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The spill released metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc.

The Superfund designation comes after months of negotiations with southwestern Colorado residents, who feared it could dampen the region’s vital tourism industry.

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