June 01, 2016

Is EPA the Fox Guarding the Hen House?

Lisa A. Decker

On August 5, 2015, at 10:30 in the morning in Silverton, Colorado, while the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in the process of excavating the collapsed opening of the old abandoned Gold King Mine (originally staked in 1887 and patented in 1891), EPA’s activities caused three million gallons of sediment-laden mine water under pressure to gush out and eventually travel to Cement Creek, a tributary of the Animas River. This mine water contained acid, salts, and heavy metals such as lead and arsenic. See Karletta Chief, et al., Understanding the Gold King Mine Spill, U. of Ariz. Superfund Research Program, Nov. 2015, http://superfund.pharmacy.arizona.edu/sites/default/files/u43/gold_king_mine_spill.pdf. EPA’s account is that the agency was “conducting an investigation to assess mine conditions and ongoing water discharges, dewater the mine pool, and assess the feasibility of further mine remediation” when the release occurred. Statement Before the Committee on Environment and Public Works U.S. Senate (Sept. 16, 2015) (statement of Gina McCarthy, EPA Adm’r) [hereinafter McCarthy Statement], available at www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-10/documents/epa_statement-_sept_16_sepw_hearing-_gkm_response_omb_cleared_final.pdf.

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