EPA Disaster: Lessons Learned from Toxic Sludge

EPA Disaster: Lessons Learned from Toxic Sludge

EPA’s recent reclamation disaster in Colorado shows us why regulation and oversight is so desperately needed.
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Green Builder Media CEO, Sara Gutterman

Green Builder Media

Thursday, August 13, 2015 - 3:00pm

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For the second week in a row, the EPA is making national news. This time, the headlines aren’t touting a progressive policy that will accelerate climate action—rather, they’re exposing an environmentally noxious mistake made by the EPA that will affect lives and livelihoods along the Colorado River Basin.

On Sunday, the EPA made a costly miscalculation at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado, discharging an estimated 3 million gallons of contaminated water laden with harmful toxins, causing arsenic quantities in the Animas River soaring to over 300 times normal levels and lead levels over 3,500 times regular amounts.

Ironically, the grievous mistake occurred as EPA workers were in the process of reclaiming the mining site, attempting to clean up the existing leakage of contaminants into the river—estimated at 548 gallons per minute. The agency was looking for the source of the leak, with the hope of staunching it.

The Animas runs into the Colorado River, which provides water to tens of millions of people in Western states. The toxic stew has now affected downstream users in Colorado and New Mexico.

The spill was so bad that the city of Durango, La Plata County, and the Navajo Nation all declared states of emergency, concerned about drinking water safety, public river access, and water quality for livestock and crops. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, also declared a state of emergency on Monday, enabling him to allocate $500,000 from the state's disaster emergency fund to pay for assessments and the response.

The EPA is now attempting to get the area designated as a national priority SuperFund cleanup site so that they can access federal funding to support a comprehensive cleanup plan.


CATEGORY: Environment