US Senators have introduced a new bill to help the Navajo Nation and communities in north-west New Mexico and south-west Colorado recover from the Gold King Mine spill.
The bill was introduced by US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, and Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado.
The Gold King Mine wastewater spill at Silverton, Colorado, released toxic wastewater into the Animas and San Juan rivers in August.
The toxic wastewater was released when the EPA personnel along with workers for Environmental Restoration were attempting to add a tap to the tailing pond for the mine.
Outlining allowable damages, the bill will is aimed at ensuring spill victims can receive compensation for their losses.
An Office of Gold King Mine Spill Claims will also be established within the EPA to carry out the compensation process under the Federal Tort Claims Act.
Under the new legislation, the EPA is required to work with affected states and tribes, as well as other relevant agencies to identify the dangerous abandoned mines across the west and establish a priority plan for cleanup.
Agencies have to alert nearby communities and develop a contingency plan in case of a spill before deciding on any cleanup or remediation in an abandoned mine.
Martin Heinrich said: "Families in north-western New Mexico and on the Navajo Nation deserve to be fairly and fully compensated for the damages incurred after the Gold King Mine spill.
"This bill will ensure the claims and compensation process is done expeditiously, and will help give those who were affected the certainty they need to recover and protect their livelihoods."
Ensuring that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to work with affected communities, the Gold King Mine Spill Recovery Act of 2015 would also require the agency to work with the states and tribes to fund and implement long-term monitoring of water quality from the mine.
Michael Bennet said: "In addition to the acid mine drainage that polluted our river, the disaster took its toll on businesses throughout the region, particularly our recreation and tourism industry.
"This bill ensures that those businesses, individuals, water districts, farmers, and local and tribal governments will be compensated by the EPA for costs they incurred due to the spill."
Image: Entrance to Gold King Mine. Photo: courtesy of EPA.