GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson is blasting the EPA for causing the August 5 toxic waste spill that turned the Animas River orange. After touring the Silverton site of the Gold King mine spill from the air in a helicopter, Carson told a huge crowd of 2,000 in Durango, Colorado that the EPA is at fault.
“I took a helicopter ride to the Gold King mining site this morning and witnessed [the spill] firsthand,” Carson told the crowd, adding that he “looked at the environmental impact caused by the EPA.”
Carson said the full extent of the long term damage resulting from the spill was not yet known, but he was quick to point out that it would be unwise for anyone to drink the water from the Animas River, something Colorado’s Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper recently did:
“What’s the long-term impact as metals seep into the ground … and animals ingest them?” he said.
He told reporters after the speech that unlike Gov. John Hickenlooper, who drank a glass of Animas River water to illustrate that the river should be reopened for recreational activities, under no circumstances would he sip from the Animas around Durango.
“I certainly wouldn’t tell anyone to drink it. We don’t understand the long-term environmental impacts,” he said.
He accused the EPA of hiding behind governmental immunity, saying if an oil company had made a similar mistake, he doubted the EPA would “be so understanding.”
Carson also opposed the EPA’s efforts to impose superfund status on the area. The Durango Herald reported that “Carson said he opposed Superfund status for Silverton as it might hurt the town’s reputation. Pursuing Superfund status should be up to the town’s residents, he said.”
Dave Taylor, the retired geologist who predicted the EPA project that caused the spill would “fail within 7 to 120 days,” had previously charged that the entire King mine, Red and Bonita mine project was an effort by the EPA to create support for SuperFund designation and funding for a wastewater plant.
As Taylor wrote in the Silverton Standard on July 30:
But make no mistake, within seven to 120 days all of the 500 gpm flow will return to Cement Creek. Contamination may actually increase due to disturbance and flushing action within the workings.
The “grand experiment” in my opinion will fail. And guess what Mr. Hestmark [EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Ecosystems Protection and Remediation in Region 8] will say then?
Gee, ‘Plan A’ didn’t work so I guess we will have to build a treatment plant at a cost to taxpayers of $100 million to $500 million (who knows).
Reading between the lines, I believe that has been EPA’s plan all along. The proposed Red & Bonita plugging plan has been their way of getting a foot in the door to justify their hidden agenda for construction of a treatment plant.
After all, with a budget of $8.2 billion and 17,000 employees, the EPA needs new, big projects to feed the best and justify their existence.
Carson also said he would fire most of EPA’s current employees, and would replace them with employees who understand the Constitution.
“Under my administration, you wouldn’t have to sue the EPA, because I would get rid of all the old people and bring in people who understand the Constitution,” Carson told the enthusiastic crowd.
Carson also ripped the EPA for a pattern of coercive behavior and its failure to make public the environmental data related to the spill.
As Breitbart News has reported, Todd Hennis, the owner of the Gold King mine, has claimed that the EPA coerced him to grant access to the mine on threat of a $35,000 per day fine. Watchdog reported that Hennis only gave in after his accrued fines reached $300,000.
The EPA has also failed to provide current data on the water exfiltration rates and pollution levels measured at the Gold King mine and nearby Red and Bonita mine before and after the spill.
In addition, the agency has apparently removed all of the photographs taken at the Gold King mine spill site at the time of the spill at a publicly available link without any explanation for the removal of those images.
Five of the 191 images that were once on this site have been archived by a private citizen at this website. A sixth image, among those subsequently taken down by the EPA, shows an unknown visitor to the spill site on August 5, shortly after the spill took place. Three additional images can be seen here.
Last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy held a press conference in Durango in which she promised the EPA would “take full responsibility” for the consequences of the spill, without spelling out exactly what that meant.
According to the Associated Press:
McCarthy’s visit Wednesday [August 12] took her to the Animas River and to the incident command center [in Durango] but not to the mine itself, which is a significant distance up stream. She was informed of new data on the water quality that she says will be released soon.
Unlike Carson, who took the time to fly over the actual spill site in Silverton 50 miles to the north of Durango, McCarthy did not visit the spill site, either from the air or on the ground.
An EPA watchdog organization, American Action Forum, estimated that the total cleanup costs related to the spill could reach $27 billion:
The cost of cleaning up a major toxic waste spill in the West caused by an Environmental Protection Agency contractor could soar as high as $27.7 billion.
That’s the conclusion of study released Tuesday morning by the right-leaning American Action Forum. The group is one of the first to attempt to estimate the clean-up cost of what will likely be remembered as one of the biggest environmental disasters of 2015
Carson’s speech was very well received, and he appeared to earn a number of converts to his campaign from members of the crowd.
As the Durango Herald reported:
Durango’s Melissa Miller, 55, said, “He gives me hope in America.”
Fort Lewis College student and track coach Jacob Hetrick, 23, said he appreciated Carson speaking “from a nonpolitical point of view.”
Though John Ogorzalek, 56, who owns a mini-storage facility in Durango, said he hadn’t yet decided whether to vote for Carson, he found Carson “intelligent and well-spoken.”
Durango’s Rich Spraker said he didn’t agree with Carson saying “he’d get rid of the EPA.” He added, “I don’t really blame the EPA” for Gold King. But after flirting with Donald Trump, John Kasich, and Scott Walker, Spraker said after hearing Carson speak, he was sold: “I was thoroughly impressed with him. This guy is only going higher, not lower.”
Carson’s pitch to voters appears to be working, and his decision to focus on EPA’s incompetence, lack of transparency, and coercive behavior is one theme he is likely to repeat throughout his campaign.
After speaking in Durango on Tuesday, Carson traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, where he spoke to another huge crowd that evening.