San Juan Basin Health Receives EPA Reimbursement
San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) is pleased to announce that it has received a partial reimbursement of the costs the agency incurred during emergency response to the Gold King Mine spill of in August of 2015. Today EPA decided to award SJBPH $13,611 to reimburse a portion of SJBPH’s expenses evaluating risks to public health, communicating safety information to the public, and creating an emergency response plan for future incidents on the Animas River. SJBPH will continue working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to receive total reimbursement of these costs.
“We are grateful that EPA has continued to review the costs that SJBPH took on between November 2015 and April 2016. This was a critical period for us, our state and local partners, and EPA as we worked together to provide more information to the community and to plan monitoring and emergency response for spring runoff. We want to especially thank our congressional delegation for working so diligently to pass the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which provides funding for today’s reimbursement,” said SJBPH Executive Director Liane Jollon.
As the local public and environmental health agency for La Plata County, SJBPH was immediately involved in emergency response following the release of three million gallons of mine wastewater from the Gold King Mine. The EPA accepted responsibility for the incident and had already reimbursed SJBPH and many local and state partner agencies for the period of the response ending in October 2015. However, the emergency continued beyond that date as SJBPH and its partners continued monitoring, investigating, and communicating about the effects of the spill and the sediment that it left behind. Today’s reimbursement covers expenses from the period of November 2015 to January 2016.
EPA’s action today is consistent with a recent Memorandum of Understanding signed by EPA and the National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO). This memorandum commits EPA to work alongside local public health officials to respond to environmental public health issues, to share data, and to improve EPA’s knowledge of local environmental problems and solutions. Local public health agencies are often the best connection between state and federal and expertise and the local communities they serve. The new commitment from EPA strengthens that connection and will provide better service to communities both in and out of times of crisis.
San Juan Basin Public Health is a local public health agency, governed by a seven member local Board of Health, serving all residents of Archuleta and La Plata counties. For close to 70 years, San Juan Basin Public Health has improved the health and environment of southwest Colorado.