Losses from mine spill may be less than feared

Mine Waste Leak
FILE - In this Aug. 12, 2015 file photo, water flows through a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King mine chemical accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo. Internal documents released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, Aug. 21, show managers at the EPA were aware of the potential for a catastrophic "blowout" at an abandoned mine that could release "large volumes" of wastewater laced with toxic heavy metals. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

DENVER (AP) – The Associated Press has learned that economic damage from a Colorado mine waste spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency may be far less than originally feared.

Farmers, business owners, residents and others initially said they suffered a staggering $1.2 billion in lost income, property damage and personal injuries from the 2015 spill at the Gold King Mine.

But the total now appears to be about $420 million. A single law firm that originally filed claims totaling $900 million for a handful of New Mexico property owners tells the AP it has lowered their claims to $120 million.

An EPA-led contractor crew inadvertently released 3 million gallons (11.3 million liters) of wastewater tainted with heavy metals from the mine in August 2015, polluting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.