The EPA released edited video footage of federal contractors who accidentally unleashed millions of gallons of toxic mine wastewater into Colorado’s Animas River. The mine blowout seems to have come as a huge surprise to EPA workers who literally asked, “what do we do now?”
The video shows EPA contractors with the company Environmental Restoration LLC in disarray after they unleashed a wave of toxic wastewater from the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo. The footage doesn’t show exactly how the mine leak started, but a backhoe is visible actively operating right next to the mine opening.
A worker can be heard saying, “is he gonna go close it up?” The backhoe doesn’t even attempt to close up the mine leak, and another contractor asks “what do we do now?” Another voice on the video asks “get outta here?”
The EPA video, published in September, also has large areas of dialogue that are bleeped out entirely. Republican lawmakers have argued the EPA doctored the video it released of the spill.
After the initial mine blowout, the rest of of the video shows millions of gallons of toxic waste pouring through rural Colorado.
Ironically, EPA workers were there to plug up mine wastewater that was leaking from abandoned mines in the region. But workers ended up leaking an estimated 3 million gallons of wastewater, sparking a huge firestorm of criticism from politicians, residents and Native Americans.
The costs of cleaning up the spill are uncertain — though one conservative think tank estimated it could cost as much as $28 billion — but it will likely take decades for all of the heavy metals, including arsenic and lead, to get out of rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Navajo Nation has threatened to sue the Obama administration over the spill.
The EPA has taken responsibility for the spill, and its report of the incident said they underestimated how much wastewater had built-up in the Gold King Mine. The agency, however, did argue that a blowout was “likely inevitable.”
EPA officials say water quality in the Animas River has returned to pre-spill levels. The Interior Department is in the process of doing a full audit of the EPA’s handling of the mine blowout.
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