Six days before 3 million gallons of toxic waste poured into Colorado’s Cement Creek and Animas River on August 5, a retired geologist predicted that the EPA operation to plug the Red and Bonita mines that caused the spill would fail.
The Silverton Standard published this letter to the editor from Dave Taylor of Farmington, New Mexico, who says he has “47 years of experience” as a professional geologist:
I came to Silverton this summer to enjoy my retirement, appreciate nature and prospect the mountains for unique minerals. I came here to enjoy a simple life with no TV and no politics, but unfortunately, that has changed. Your EPA dilemma has caused my blood to boil.
Based on my 47 years experience as a professional geologist, it appears to me that the EPA is setting your town and the area up for a possible Superfund blitzkrieg.
In regards to your meeting with the EP on June 23, Mr. Hestmark’s (EPA representative) statement “we don’t have an agenda” is either ignorant naivety or an outright falsehood. I am certain Mr. Hestmark’s hyrdologists have advised him what’s going to happen when the Red & Bonita portals [are] plugged and the “grand experiment” begins with unknown and foreseeable results and possible negative consequences.
Here’s the scenario that will occur based on my experience:
Following the plugging, the exfiltrating water will be retained behind the bulkheads, accumulating at a rate of approximately 500 gallons per minute. As the water backs up, it will begin filling all connected mine workings and bedrock voids and fractures. As the water level inside the workings continue to rise, it will accumulate head pressure at a rate of 1 PSI per each 2.31 feet of vertical rise.
As the water continues to migrate through and fill interinterconnected workings, the pressure will increase. Eventually, without a doubt. The water will find a way out and will exfiltrate uncontrollably through connected abandoned shafts, drifts, raises, fractures, and possibly from talus on the hillsides. Initially it will appear that the miracle fix is working.
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 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.
I would recommend that anyone who owns a home, property water well or srping in the Cement Creek drainage take water samples ASAP to protect themselves from groundwater changes that may be caused by the EPA plugging operation.
God bless America, God bless Silverton, Colorado, and God protect us from the EPA.
Martin Hestmark, to whom Taylor refers in the letter, is the Assistant Regional Administrator for Ecosystems Protection and Remediation in EPA’s Region 8. As John Hinderaker reported in Powerline, Hestmark’s boss, EPA Regional Administrator, Sean McGrath, is an Obama political operative.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy held a press availability in Durango, Colorado on Wednesday but refused to offer an explanation for the agency’s actions that caused the spill, focusing instead on response efforts. McCarthy also refused to visit the site of the spill in Silverton.
Administrator Gina McCarthy, in a boots-on-the-ground appearance Wednesday in Durango that’s expected to continue Thursday in Farmington, N.M., called the Aug. 5 incident “heartbreaking” and said the EPA “couldn’t be more sorry.”
“Right now, rest assured, we will learn lessons from this, and we will move those lessons forward in the work moving ahead,” she said of the spill of 3 million gallons at the Gold King Mine near Silverton.
In a 15-minute news conference, McCarthy said cleanup operations at similar mines throughout the country have been “put on hold” until the EPA determines how the Gold King accident happened. Speaking outside a command center, McCarthy said the EPA plans to solicit an independent investigation of the calamity.
Some Durango residents are angered that McCarthy is neither planning a trip to the Gold King Mine nor holding a public meeting. EPA officials and McCarthy said the mine — roughly a 55-mile trip, some of it over unpaved road — was too far to visit.
“As you know, it is a significant distance away, but I did visit the river. I took a look at it myself to get a sense of the river,” McCarthy said. “And I think the good news is it seems to be restoring itself, but we have continued work to do and EPA is here.”
The timing of the spill, coming on the heels of the recently announced EPA rule regulating carbon dioxide emissions from coal power plants that 16 states say is unlawful and was heavily influenced by environmental activist groups and President Obama’s 2012 campaign organization operating under the new name Organizing for Action, is bad for the Obama administration.
McCarthy’s unwillingness to honestly and straightforwardly acknowledge EPA’s responsibility for the spill, combined with her tone deaf unwillingness to visit the spill site, only adds to the perception that the EPA continues to display the arrogance of power that characterizes an out-of-control regulatory state.
The EPA announced the $1.5 million project to plug the Red and Bonita mines earlier in 2015, and operations began in July. As the Durango Herald reported on June 28:
Mine remediation and greater monitoring above Silverton this summer will help ease the level of poisonous metals in the Animas River, at least at first.
At the Red and Bonita Mine, where polluted water is pouring out at 500 gallons per minute, Environmental Protection Agency workers would like to put a stop to the flow by September, said Steven Way, on-scene coordinator for the agency.
About 18 percent of the heavy metals in the Animas River come from the mine, said Peter Butler, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholder Group.
It is contributing cadmium, zinc, iron and aluminum to the river, which are responsible for killing off native fish and other species.
The $1.5 million construction project is set to start in mid-July, and it will require workers to muck out nontoxic mineral deposits from the floor of the mine before installing a concrete bulkhead. It is not a Superfund project, but the EPA plans to pay for it, Way said.
Red and Bonita began draining in 2006 after the Sunnyside Gold Corp., the last major mining operation in Silverton, plugged the American Tunnel in three places. The small Red and Bonita Mine, founded in the 1800s, was never productive.
The EPA understands that this new bulkhead could have the same effect as the American Tunnel bulkheads and cause water to drain from other mines. As a result, the agency plans to monitor the Gold King number 7 level and the Mogul because they are both nearby, Way said.
Gold King Number 7, which is partially collapsed, will be stabilized this summer to allow for better monitoring of flows, he said.
Right after the Red and Bonita is plugged, there will be an improvement in water quality, but it doesn’t last or water quality worsens, the bulkhead will have a valve so the EPA can open it up again, Way said.
“This, in a way, is as much as experiment as the American Tunnel,” said Steve Fearn, co-coordinator of the Animas River Stakeholders Group.
Taylor’s prediction was simply that the operation would fail, but even Taylor underestimated the scale of the failure.
“Eventually, without a doubt. The water will find a way out and will exfiltrate uncontrollably through connected abandoned shafts, drifts, raises, fractures, and possibly from talus on the hillsides,” he wrote.
“But make no mistake, within seven to 120 days all of the 500 gpm [gallons per minute] 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,” he wrote.
Taylor was correct that “the water will find a way out and will exfiltrate uncontrollably.” Instead of 500 gallons per minute, (which would be 30,000 gallons per hour) the flow turned out to be 3 million gallons in less than a day.
Taylor was also correct in noting that the EPA has been lobbying to designate the area as a recipient of federal SuperFund financing, but locals have resisted that request.
As the Denver Post reported in April 2014:
SILVERTON, Colo. (AP) — San Juan County Commissioners are concerned after scientists and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency proposed Superfund designation for parts of Silverton polluted by mining operations.
Federal regional administrator Martin Hestmark warned that without Superfund designation, there would be no money for long-term cleanup efforts.
The designation would also allow the EPA to further study the Upper Animas mine basin.
According to the Durango Herald (http://tinyurl.com/kjot5o9 ), residents in Silverton are balancing the federal funding that would be available through federal Superfund designation to clean toxic water pollution from old mines with the economic hit the community would take from being branded a Superfund site.
The Wall Street Journal identified the contractor who performed the work to plug the Red and Bonita mines as Environmental Restoration, LLC of Fenton, Missouri, which has been paid more than $380 million by the EPA over the past decade to work on similar projects. Breitbart News contacted Environmental Restoration LLC to confirm the details of the Wall Street Journal’s article, but received no response.