EPA: It’s ‘Premature’ To Protect People From Gold King Mine Pollution

Ethan Barton | Managing Editor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials aren’t protecting human health near the new Superfund site born out of the agency-caused Gold King Mine disaster and have refused to say whether pollution threatens nearby-residents.

EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison repeatedly refused to say if humans are safe, and only cited an ongoing health risk assessment as the protection the agency has provided.

“Until that assessment is complete, it is premature to speculate about potential human health risks from the 48 source areas,” Harrison told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

An EPA crew breached the Gold King Mine in August 2015, which unleashed a three-million-gallon flood of toxic waste into the Animas River – a water source for three states and the Navajo Nation.

The disaster convinced nearby Silverton, Colo. residents to allow the EPA to designate Gold King and 47 other Colorado mines as the Bonita Peak Mining District Superfund site – a designation locals resisted for around 20 years. (RELATED: EPA Pollutes River, Uses Scare Tactics To Take Control Of A Colorado Town)

The EPA’s website also confirms the agency’s uncertainty about pollution dangers. The Bonita Peak webpage lists the statuses for “human exposure” to pollution and groundwater contamination as “unavailable” and “insufficient data,” respectively.

Information about pollution threatening human health at Gold King Mine is "unavailable." (Photo: Screenshot, EPA Website)

Information about pollution threatening human health at Gold King Mine is “unavailable.” (Photo: Screenshot, EPA Website)

“These terms are default values that are used on Superfund websites when no pertinent data has been compiled,” Harrison told TheDCNF. “This is a common situation for sites that have recently been added … and for which EPA is in the process of collecting and analyzing the relevant data.”

“The Bonita Peak Mining District site is listed as ‘status unavailable’ because the Human Health Risk Assessment has not yet been completed,” she continued.

Harrison repeatedly refused to differentiate between “status unavailable” and “insufficient data.” Sites with no risk to humans are listed as “under control.”

Regardless, the uncertainty surrounding Bonita Peak’s danger creates two essential questions:

What is the EPA doing to protect humans in case the assessment determines that threats exist? Why did the agency create the Superfund site if it’s not a threat to people?

Harrison didn’t provide any action the EPA took to protect or warn humans, aside from the ongoing assessment itself. Agency officials previously stated that the Superfund designation was necessary to protect fish populations rather than human health. Harrison didn’t even hint that this may be the case. (RELATED: EPA’s Own Report Contradicts Its Claims On Gold King Mine Region)

Meanwhile, more than 100 Superfund sites expose humans to pollution, while the EPA is uncertain about dangers surrounding another 200, agency data shows.

Harrison did, however, provide some health information.

“At this time there is no evidence of any adverse health effects to nearby residents related to the Bonita Peak Mining District site,” she told TheDCNF.

But “adverse health effects” is different than facing health threats. It’s the difference, for example, between the risks of smoking cigarettes versus actually showing repercussions, such as lung disease.

Harrison did not expand on her statement or provide support for her claim such as medical surveys.

Follow Ethan on Twitter. Send tips to ethan@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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Tags : environmental protection agency gold king mine investigative group superfund
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