Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials refuse to answer two questions surrounding the August 2015 Gold King Mine spill that would help resolve issues uncovered by a Daily Caller News Foundation investigation.
TheDCNF reported numerous contradictions in the EPA’s explanation of how and why it intentionally breached Colorado’s Gold King Mine, releasing 880,000 pounds of dangerous metals and mining waste into drinking water for three states and the Navajo Nation.
Yet, the EPA refused to clarify those contradictions and instead disregarded TheDCNF’s findings and clung to its original story.
First, the EPA ignored the conflicts of interest surrounding the “independent” investigation of the spill.
The Department of the Interior (DOI) was tasked to independently review the Gold King Mine spill, but TheDCNF found the agency was heavily involved with the site both before and after the incident. Additionally, DOI’s investigation was secretly ordered to “stay clear” of issues involving EPA’s negligence, internal emails revealed.
“EPA requested that DOI and [the Army Corps of Engineers] conduct the independent review because they are respected entities with long-standing engineering and technical mine site experience,” EPA spokeswoman Nancy Grantham told TheDCNF.
That response came two weeks after TheDCNF asked why DOI was selected to head the “independent” investigation, considering the agency’s numerous conflicts of interest.
Additionally, it’s likely the Army Corps of Engineers peer reviewer’s scathing comments in the report would have been excluded if he hadn’t threatened to withhold his signature.
Second, the EPA didn’t resolve the discrepancy between its official explanation that breaching the mine was an accident, contradicting internal emails.
“As indicated in EPA’s Internal Review and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation Technical Evaluation, excavation work was being conducted above the adit to remove consolidated soils and debris when an uncontrolled release of water occurred,” Grantham told TheDCNF.
Grantham, however, failed to explain an internal email that said the mine was intentionally breached. She also ignored TheDCNF’s finding that the Gold King Mine crew was actually digging at the bottom of the mine’s water-filled entrance.
The EPA additionally didn’t test for water pressure in the mine “because establishing a safe location for the drilling pad would have been very challenging given the steepness and instability of the slopes above the adit,” Grantham said.
The EPA’s Internal Review indicated that “the underestimation of the water pressure in the Gold King Mine workings is believed to be the most significant factor related to the blowout.” Meanwhile, at least one EPA manager knew “there was some pressure,” internal emails show.
Grantham also reiterated a previous response that carefully avoided calling the spill an “accident” and instead called it an “unfortunate incident.” She also again refused to say if anyone has been punished or disciplined for the disaster.
Michael Bastasch contributed to this report.
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