You’re probably aware of the recent ecological disaster the EPA caused in the Gold King Mine. While cleaning up the heavily polluted site, they caused a blowout that put millions of gallons of toxic water into the Animas and San Juan Rivers, turning them yellow. I’ve been waiting for more details on the event. Accidents happen, particularly when you’re working at a poorly known site. The EPA wasn’t just screwing around with the mine; they were trying to clean up an ongoing environmental problem that had killed many of the fish in the upper Animas river. Acid mine drainage is a huge environmental problem and is one of the reasons we have the EPA in the first place (I was just reading an article about the Berkeley Pit mine, a potential time bomb tat the EPA is defusing).
Well, we’re finding out some things now. And it looks very bad:
U.S. officials knew of the potential for a catastrophic “blowout” of poisonous wastewater from an inactive gold mine, yet appeared to have only a cursory plan to deal with such an event when a government cleanup team triggered a 3-million-gallon spill, according to internal documents released by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA released the documents late Friday following weeks of prodding from The Associated Press and other media organizations. While shedding some light on the circumstances surrounding the accident, the newly disclosed information also raises more questions about whether enough was done to prevent it.
A May 2015 action plan produced by an EPA contractor, Environmental Restoration LLC, also noted the potential for a blowout.
The May plan also called for a pond that would be used to manage the mine water and prevent contaminants from entering waterways. That pond was not completed.
A 71-page safety plan for the site included only a few lines describing what to do if there was a spill: Locate the source and stop the flow, begin containment and recovery of the spilled materials, and alert downstream drinking water systems as needed.
Note that the EPA has actually redacted parts of the documents as if there are national security issues at stake. They have also not revealed what happened immediately before and after the blowout or why they waited for over a day to let local governments know that their water was turning to poison.
I expect, in the end, no one will be held accountable. “Stuff happens” is the way of the Obama Administration, at least when it comes to their own people. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s going to get a lot worse for the EPA.