DURANGO The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says significant progress is being made as water quality appears to be improving in a major Southwest river system that was contaminated by millions of gallons of toxic mine sludge. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said Thursday that the latest testing results show improvements and that the Animas River in southwest Colorado is “restoring itself.”  She spoke during a visit to Farmington, New Mexico, where she announced that the EPA has released $500,000 to help supply clean water for crop irrigation and livestock in northwestern New Mexico. McCarthy acknowledged the concerns of state, local and tribal officials about the heavy metals now trapped in the river bed and along the banks. She said the EPA will deal with the sediment problem over the long term but offered no specifics. EPA and contract workers accidentally unleashed 3 million gallons of contaminated wastewater on Aug. 5 as they inspected the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. The toxic plume affected communities in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.


GLENWOOD SPRINGS (AP) – The Carbondale  man charged with murder after he allegedly confessed to killing his wife after being hurt in a car crash on Highway 133 has pleaded not guilty. 46-year-old Arturo Navarrete-Portillo pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder Wednesday. A nine-day trial for the Carbondale man has been set for February 2016. In court Wednesday, Deputy District Attorney Matt Barrett indicated that another charge might be added to the case, while Navarrete-Portillo’s attorney expressed plans to request that certain evidence be excluded from trial. Navarrete-Portillo is accused in the Feb. 16 stabbing death of 30-year-old Maria Carminda Portillo-Amaya at their Carbondale home. Police say he was involved in a collision after the stabbing, and he allegedly told emergency responders he had killed his wife.