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The Latest: EPA starts taking claims from people affected by Colorado mine spill

  • FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 file photo, people kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored yellow from a mine waste spill. A crew supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been blamed for causing the spill while attempting to clean up the area near the abandoned Gold King Mine. Tribal officials with the Navajo Nation declared an emergency on Monday, Aug. 10, as the massive plume of contaminated wastewater flowed down the San Juan River toward Lake Powell in Utah, which supplies much of the water to the Southwest. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP, FILE) MANDATORY CREDIT

    FILE - In this Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015 file photo, people kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., in water colored yellow from a mine waste spill. A crew supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been blamed for causing the spill while attempting to clean up the area near the abandoned Gold King Mine. Tribal officials with the Navajo Nation declared an emergency on Monday, Aug. 10, as the massive plume of contaminated wastewater flowed down the San Juan River toward Lake Powell in Utah, which supplies much of the water to the Southwest. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP, FILE) MANDATORY CREDIT  (The Associated Press)

  • Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at a Resources for the Future policy leadership forum, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Washington. McCarthy spoke about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the recent Colorado mine spill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

    Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy speaks at a Resources for the Future policy leadership forum, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2015, in Washington. McCarthy spoke about the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and the recent Colorado mine spill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)  (The Associated Press)

  • Pete McKay, San Juan County commissioner in Colorado, looks at the site, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, where the Gold King Mine breach occurred, north of Silverton, Colo. Local officials in towns downstream from where millions of gallons of mine waste spilled into the San Juan River are demanding answers about possible long-term threats to the water supply. The 3 million gallons of mine waste included high concentrations of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. Workers with the EPA accidentally unleashed the spill Wednesday as they inspected the abandoned mine site. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP)

    Pete McKay, San Juan County commissioner in Colorado, looks at the site, Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, where the Gold King Mine breach occurred, north of Silverton, Colo. Local officials in towns downstream from where millions of gallons of mine waste spilled into the San Juan River are demanding answers about possible long-term threats to the water supply. The 3 million gallons of mine waste included high concentrations of arsenic, lead and other heavy metals. Workers with the EPA accidentally unleashed the spill Wednesday as they inspected the abandoned mine site. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times via AP)  (The Associated Press)

The latest in the Colorado mine spill (all times local):

10:33 a.m.

Tuesday marks the first day people affected by a Colorado mine spill can file claims with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency accidentally unleashed the contaminated wastewater last week as federal and contract workers inspected the abandoned mine near Silverton, Colorado. The agency estimates more than 3 million gallons of sludge laden with lead, arsenic and other heavy metals flowed at least 100 miles downstream to New Mexico.

Communities and farmers along the Animas and San Juan rivers were forced to stop using river water, and it's unclear when it will be safe to resume irrigating.

The EPA says it's committed to taking responsibility for the spill and effects to downstream communities.

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9:53 a.m.

Colorado's governor is visiting a stretch of river contaminated by yellow wastewater that spilled from an abandoned mine.

Gov. John Hickenlooper began his visit Tuesday with a tour of a fish hatchery in the southwestern city of Durango. Cages have been placed in the Animas River there to catch fish and measure any effects on them from the spill. So far, officials say they see no problems.

Hickenlooper issued a disaster declaration for the area Monday, releasing $500,000 to assist businesses and towns affected after a federal mine cleanup operation accidentally released millions of gallons of sludge containing heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.

Stretches of the Animas River and the San Juan River it flows into have also been declared disaster areas in New Mexico.