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Utah's Division of Water Quality will receive an additional $180,000 to compensate the state for its efforts to monitor the aftereffects of the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster.
The state was already eligible for up to $485,000 in funding, but Walt Baker, director of the Utah Division of Water Quality, said that amount was insufficient. The state expects to spend as much as $850,000 to monitor the San Juan River and Lake Powell for metals contamination from the Gold King Mine that may continue to make its way downstream.
With the additional funds, Baker believes the state will be able to fund its share of the multiagency monitoring effort announced earlier this year, if Utah can shave off a few less-essential elements of the program.
"We're most pleased that we have this initial funding," Baker said.
Earlier this year, Utah entered into an agreement with New Mexico, the Navajo Nation and La Plata County, Colo., to launch a coordinated spring runoff monitoring program. Their goal is to develop a method to use real-time data on the water's turbidity the amount of stirred-up sediment flowing through the water column as an early indicator that heavy metals are again moving downstream.
Estimates from the EPA suggest as much as 80 percent of the metals released from the Gold King Mine are loosely buried in the Animas River. Downstream authorities fear these metals could dislodge when spring runoff peaks in June, triggering another plume event.
The EPA announced that it would send $600,000 total to Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, the Navajo Nation and the Ute Mountain Tribe to fund the monitoring project.
Utah and New Mexico have announced plans to sue the EPA for the agency's role in the breach of the defunct Gold King Mine that sent a bright-yellow surge of contamination into the Animas River in Durango, Colo.