Friday, October 23, 2015

Colorado mine spill caused by EPA mistake was preventable, says government review

"The release of three million gallons of toxic wastewater from a defunct southwestern Colorado gold mine that was triggered by the Environmental Protection Agency was preventable," said a report released on Thursday by the U.S Bureau of Reclamation, Keith Coffman reports for Reuters. "Nearby mining operations and tunneling beneath the century-old stake led to changing groundwater conditions that the EPA failed to anticipate when it reopened a portal on the site in recent years, the report said." (EPA photo: Yellow mine waste water is seen at the entrance to the Gold King Mine in San Juan County, Colorado)

"An excavating crew under contract with the EPA to slow seepage from the site inadvertently breached a tunnel wall, unleashing a torrent of wastewater that had backed up behind the mountainside," Hoffman writes. "The water, carrying heavy metals, poured into Cement Creek and then downstream into the Animas and San Juan rivers, turning the waterways a bright orange. The plume ultimately emptied into Lake Powell in Utah nine days after the spill. The governors of Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, the three states affected by the spill, all declared a state of emergency in its aftermath."

An EPA document released after the spill said EPA knew of the dangers of a polluted water blowout. While EPA chief Gina McCarthy has said the agency is taking full responsibility for the spill, the report said "that there are no uniform protocols among the government agencies charged with cleaning up the estimated 100,000 abandoned mines that dot the western U.S." (Read more)

No comments: