Colorado Official Says EPA Lied About Gold King Mine Spill


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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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Colorado officials have challenged claims by the Environmental Protection Agency that state regulators signed off on the agency’s operation at Gold King Mine that ended up unleashing three million gallons of toxic mine waste.

The Associated Press obtained a letter from Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, to the EPA claiming the agency was not telling the truth when it said state regulators approved a plan to unplug the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colo.

“The investigation’s conclusions into the events surrounding the discharge were not consistent with our staff’s involvement and we felt it important to make sure the investigators were aware of our perspective,” King wrote to EPA. “The letter speaks for itself.”

EPA claimed state experts signed off on its plan to put a drainage pipe in Gold King Mine to prevent wastewater from leaking uncontrollably out of the mine. EPA’s plan, however, completely backfired and workers on the site ended up unleashing three million gallons of mine wastewater. The mine waste eventually found its way into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

EPA took responsibility for the spill, but tried to lessen the political consequences by claiming a mine blowout would have occurred anyway. The agency also claimed it got outside experts to approve the project, including two state mining experts.

An Interior Department report released in October found EPA workers miscalculated how much wastewater had built up in the mine. The report also “described the two state experts as being even more deeply involved than the EPA report did,” according to the AP.

But Colorado officials say that’s not true. King said state officials never made any predictions about water build up in the mine and were only on the scene that day to discuss future plans for the mine, not work going on the day of the blowout.

The Gold King Mine blowout could cost taxpayers as much as $28 billion to clean up over the years, but even then it’s unclear if all of the wastewater can be taken out of the rivers. Navajo Nation is worried heavy metals will be present in waterways for decades.

“The Environmental Protection Agency’s response to the Gold King Mine spill of three million gallons of toxic sludge and the resulting contamination of the Animas and San Juan rivers has been a disaster,” Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye wrote of the incident.

The Navajo Nation is used to historical mistreatment by agencies of the federal government, but the inadequate and delayed response to the contamination of our rivers and the utter lack of accountability takes that sentiment to a whole new level,” Begaye wrote.

Republicans have also slammed EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy for not take any disciplinary action or firing any agency contractor or employee for wrongdoing. The EPA did not even release the name of the contracting company onsite the day of the spill — that was uncovered by The Wall Street Journal.

Environmental Restoration LLC, the contracting firm working on Gold King Mine, has gotten $381 million in federal contracts from EPA since October 2007, but what’s shocking is the firm got $2.7 million in contracts after the mine spill in August.

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