An EPA “Accident” Turns Into Far More
~ by Amy Lignor
What began as an “accident” made by the EPA in Denver, Colorado, has now opened a can of even more worms showing that the EPA, itself, actually had pre-knowledge that an environmental accident could occur in the first place during their project.
For those who may not know, two weeks back a waste spill happened of approximately three million gallons of mine waste, when the EPA attempted to “clean-up” and bust open, so to speak, an old gold mine located in SW Colorado. The river of thick orange goo that flowed downstream into the Animas River and then moved on to the San Juan River in New Mexico and the Colorado River in Utah, was originally spoken about by the Managers at the Environmental Protection Agency as an accident that could be easily fixed and not dangerous to anyone. As days passed…the option that it could perhaps be damaging to farm stock and fields became possible. Now, papers have been released that the EPA was actually aware of the risk that was there before they began their work. The possibility for a mine blowout and the subsequent release of a large flow of waste that would contain toxic metals and chemicals, was a risk that was already known about before anything proceeded to happen.
The documents, themselves, actually came from the EPA. In 2014, they wrote up an order that included “a planned cleanup.” These papers stated that since the old mine had not been accessible to anyone since 1995, when the entrance initially fell into partial collapse, that the longtime condition “likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse.” (This report was offered to the EPA from a private contractor they hired). The report went on to state that: “other collapses within the workings may have occurred creating additional water impounding conditions. Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.” In other words, this was not a surprise, and this “accident” could have been avoided.
The action plan that spoke about the potential for the blowout and what the EPA could have, would have, or perhaps should have avoided, is under investigation. More than one. At this moment there are three looking into how, exactly, the EPA brought about the true “environmental disaster” and how the rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah can be aided and cleaned-up from the huge injection of lead, arsenic and other contaminants. The upside for people to note is that the levels of contamination have fallen, yet the experts out there state that those test results are not a surprise, considering that heavy metals have the ability (and most likely have) sunk to the bottom of the rivers and certainly are among the river-bottom sediments that can one day be stirred back up to the surface.
It is still the EPA’s initial response that is taking the most flak from the states. No matter how this incident is looked at now – whether the EPA had knowledge that this could happen or not – it still took a full 24-hour period before they told any officials that oversee downstream villages, farms, and communities that actually rely on water from those rivers for drinking.
This incident has certainly made it to the Senate, as well, where Republican Lamar Smith-TX (Chair of the House Science Committee), has said that the EPA “has an obligation to be more forthcoming.” He also has called for the EPA to appear before the House Science Committee next month for further explanation.
It will take some time to realize what the EPA knew and what could have been better avoided, but no matter how this is looked at (or by whom) there will be a great deal to answer for in the coming months.