It’s been a year since the Gold King Mine disaster, and the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to hold anyone accountable for the debacle, Republican Rep. Rob Bishop told reporters Thursday.
“EPA’s disaster dumped hundreds of tons of pollutants into a river that flows across four states — affecting farmers, treatment systems for safe drinking water, and livelihoods, but no one has been punished,” said Bishop, who serves as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
The Colorado mine spill resulted in three million gallons of dangerous mine waste being dumped into Colorado’s Animus River, turning it yellow and poisoning the drinking water for thousands of residents across three states and the Navajo Nation. The spill also dumped more than 880,000 pounds of toxic elements — like lead and arsenic — into the water.
Bishop blasted the EPA and the Obama administration for failing to hold anybody accountable.
“A year later, the Obama administration still won’t tell us the whole truth,” Bishop said. “Accounts of events from Interior and EPA have been inconsistent and artfully misleading. The EPA insists they had no plan to dig out the plug [closing the mine], but they did and without testing.”
The EPA, for its part, accepted responsibility on Thursday for the spill, although it has not yet publicly fired any individuals responsible for the disaster.
“EPA fully recognizes the impacts that the Gold King Mine release has had on communities and residents who live along and use the Animas and San Juan rivers,” the agency noted in a one-year anniversary report. “We continue to be accountable, and working with our federal, state and tribal partners, we are implementing and sharing best practices and lessons learned from this event.”
The anniversary comes two months after The Daily Caller News Foundation reported that EPA worker Hays Griswold was in charge at the Gold King Mine during the spill. Someone removed Griswold’s name from an “independent” review of the disaster, according to documents obtained by TheDCNF in June.
EPA’s failure to hold its employees accountable for last year’s leak has become normal operating procedure in the agency. In fact, there have been numerous examples over the past few years of this irresponsible behavior.
Senior EPA officials in 2015, for instance, largely ignored complaints by 16 women, mostly employees, accusing one agency official of sexual harassment. The employee got promoted despite the complaints.
“You have employees that are sexually abusive of women [and children]… yet no one was fired,” said Alabama Rep. Gary Palmer, a Republican. “They were put on paid administrative leave.”
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing in May showing that the EPA paid a registered sex offender to retire rather than terminating his employment.
The child molester, a registered sex offender, was fired in 2014 for violating his probation, but the Merit Systems Protection Board reinstated him, according to EPA inspector general records. The employee was paid $55,000 to resign in 2015.
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