February 6, 2016--Durango, Silverton officials, governor back Superfund listing (Durango Herald)

Officials are edging closer to recommending a Superfund listing in the wake of the Gold King Mine spill after closed-door meetings Friday. Gov. John Hickenlooper met with officials from Durango, Silverton and San Juan County late Friday afternoon. After the meeting, the governor said it appears stakeholders are on board to pursue the designation. “These communities have made it clear that a Superfund designation is the most viable path to address pollution in the affected area and protect our public health and environment,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re all working around the clock to ensure that remaining points of negotiation are resolved in time for the March Federal Register listing in order to move this process forward.” The governor has until Feb. 29 to meet a deadline extension to propose a new Superfund site in San Juan County. Local officials are also hopeful that they are getting close to offering a formal opinion on the Superfund designation, which would culminate in a vote by Silverton and San Juan County elected officials. The communities delayed a vote in late January. There are some outstanding issues to work out, including securing assurances that impacts to the town would be mitigated and ensuring a seat at the table for local governments. But San Juan County Administrator William Tookey believes the area has gone through a bit of an evolution on the subject. “There’s been a perception that because we haven’t gone out and requested Superfund that we were somewhat anti-clean water, which we haven’t been,” Tookey said, underscoring that the local governments simply wanted assurances. “We recognized that ... if in fact a treatment plant is a solution, the resources weren’t there without a Superfund site.” Added Durango Mayor Dean Brookie: “What we enlisted from the governor’s office was assistance in working through these next three weeks to come to consensus in enlisting help in navigating these last remaining issues with the EPA.” The Environmental Protection Agency generally won’t list a site without a governor’s support letter. A listing would designate the site as blighted, allowing for an influx of federal dollars to begin long-term restoration efforts, including building a treatment facility. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.