Interior Department Blames EPA for Colorado Toxic Waste Spill

Jerry McBride/Durango Herald via AP
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald via AP

An Interior Department investigation into the 3 million gallon toxic waste spill that turned Colorado’s Animas River orange in August places the blame squarely on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The announcement comes after a two month study conducted by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation.

As the Associated Press reported:

The Colorado spill would have been avoided had the EPA team checked on water levels inside the inactive Gold King Mine before digging into its collapsed and leaking entrance, a team of engineers from Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation concluded in a 132-page report released Thursday.

Abandoned hard-rock underground mines are not subject to the same federal and state safety requirements other mining operations must follow, and “experience indicates that they should be,” the report concluded.

“A collapsed flooded mine is in effect a dam, and failure must be prevented by routine monitoring, maintenance, and in some cases remediation,” the engineers wrote. “However, there appears to be a general absence of knowledge of the risks associated with these facilities.”

Dave Taylor, the retired geologist who predicted that the EPA project that caused the Gold King Mine toxic waste blowout would fail, tells Breitbart News: “after reviewing the Associated Press’s summary article, I believe the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation got it right. Without a doubt we have known it was completely the EPA’s fault from the day it happened.”

“Bottom line, the EPA is not qualified to handle underground mining problems,” Taylor adds. “Unfortunately, the Bureau of Reclamation is not much better. I was figuring they were going to cover up for the EPA, but obviously, they’re not covering up.”

Todd Hennis, owner of San Juan Corp., which owns the Gold King Mine, had few nice things to say about the EPA after the report was released.

“San Juan Corp. agrees that the root cause of the blowout at the Gold King Mine began when the neighboring Sunnyside Mine mined the Gold King property and then blocked the flows of mine water from the American Tunnel of the Sunnyside Mine,” Hennis tells Breitbart News in a statement released after the publication of the Department of Interior’s findings.

“That caused a very large amount of mine water to build up in Bonita Peak and flow out of neighboring properties.” Hennis adds:

We have been advised of an independent investigation that has determined via photographic evidence analysis that the actions of the E.P.A. in 2014 in piling a large amount of backfill material on the Gold King entrance blocked off the mine discharge pipe intakes. This action by the EPA resulted in a very large volume of water backing up in the Gold King Mine workings. The act of placing such a large amount of backfill on the entrance of the Gold King Mine also prevented the pressure of the water from clearing an outlet of the waters naturally.

Hennis “has been warning of the dangers and consequences of the Sunnyside Mine blocking and consequently diverting its mine discharge into neighboring properties for fourteen years,” the San Juan Corp. statement reads.

“We again strongly warn the public and the regulators of the potential for catastrophic future failure of the concrete dams placed in the American Tunnel by the operators of the Sunnyside Mine, which would result in a blowout of many magnitudes greater than the one EPA triggered at the Gold King Mine. We again ask Kinross Gold Corporation of Canada to step forward and correct this horrendous situation,” the statement concludes.

The report may be a harbinger of a bureaucratic power struggle between the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation and the EPA. Before the EPA was created in 1969, the Bureau of Reclamation played a bigger role in cleaning up this sort of disaster.

Sources tell Breitbart News that the report may be the opening shot in a potential budget battle between the Department of the Interior and the EPA.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.