Colorado mine owner seeks US compensation for 2015 spill


The owner of an inactive Colorado mine that was the source of a 2015 spill that tainted rivers in three western states sues the US government

DURANGO, Colorado – The owner of an idle southwest Colorado mine that caused a catastrophic 2015 spill that tainted rivers in three western states has sued the US government, asking for nearly $ 3.8 million in compensation for using his land in his cleanup.

Todd Hennis claims the Environmental Protection Agency has occupied part of his property near the Gold King mine, but has not compensated him for it since the August 2015 spill, the Durango Herald reported. He also claims that the EPA contaminated his land by causing the spill, which sent a bright yellow plume of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. .

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the United States Federal Claims Court, Hennis argued that the EPA’s actions violated its Fifth Amendment rights to fair compensation for the public use of private property.

The EPA did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Friday.

A team of contractors led by the EPA were doing excavation work at the entrance to the mine when they inadvertently pierced a pile of debris that was trapping sewage inside the mine.

The spill released 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of sewage that ended up in the Animas River and eventually to the San Juan River. Water utilities were forced to close water intake gates and farmers stopped tapping into rivers as the plume moved downstream.

After the spill, the EPA designated the Gold King mine and 47 other mining sites in the area as a Superfund clean-up district. The agency is still reviewing options for a broader cleanup.

The lawsuit says Hennis verbally authorized the government to use part of a 33-acre (13-hectare) piece of land as an emergency staging area right after the eruption. He believed it would be temporary and that he would be compensated, according to the lawsuit.

Hennis claims that months later and without his permission, the EPA built a $ 2.3 million water treatment facility on the property. The agency continues to treat water and store waste there, according to the lawsuit.

He’s asking for at least $ 3 million in compensation for the damage and occupancy of the property, which he says is worth at least $ 3 million according to a private appraisal this year. The lawsuit also asks for interest.

In January, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation announced settlements amid a dispute over the spill with companies that had operated mines near Gold King. Last year, the U.S. government settled a lawsuit brought by Utah for a fraction of what it was initially seeking in damages.


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