Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson arrived in Colorado Tuesday to visit residents who had been affected by the massive EPA-caused toxic mine spill that unleashed lead, arsenic and other metals into nearby rivers.
While the EPA and Colorado officials have said water quality has returned to “pre-incident” levels, Carson told locals that he wouldn’t drink the water, according to The Durango Herald.
“I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to drink it. We don’t understand the long-term environmental impacts,” the renowned neurosurgeon told people in Durango, Colo., which is downstream of where the massive spill occurred.
“What’s the long-term impact as metals seep into the ground … and animals ingest them?” Carson said.
Carson is, so far, the only presidential candidate to visit Durango in the wake of the EPA’s wastewater spill. EPA workers accidentally spilled some three million gallons of wastewater from the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo. earlier this month. A toxic plume of contaminants has flowed hundreds of miles, impacting water used for drinking, farming and recreation for hundreds of miles.
The Republican candidate didn’t stop there, he also criticized the EPA as being controlled by “a bunch of bureaucrats who don’t know a bunch of anything” who try and “control people’s lives.” Carson promised that, if elected, Americans would see “a different kind of EPA.”
“Under my administration, you wouldn’t have to sue the EPA, because I would get rid of all the old people and bring in people who understand the Constitution,” Carson said, later clarifying that he wouldn’t actually fire all 17,000 EPA employees.
“Not everyone,” he said. “But people who don’t understand the purpose of the EPA, which is not to make businesses miserable. I think they should be working along with industry, not as adversaries but as allies.”
It’s unclear exactly how much EPA’s spill could cost taxpayers to clean up, but experts have estimated it could be anywhere from $2.7 million to nearly $28 billion. Experts have also noted it could take decades to fully clean up the toxic metals that have settled in the San Juan River running through Navajo Nation.
In its latest email release on the mine spill, the EPA said that based on “surface water sample results in New Mexico, surface water concentrations are trending toward pre-event conditions.”
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