December 10, 2015--Disagreement between state and EPA over Gold King Mine spill lingers (Durango Herald)

Additional details released this week by the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the Gold King Mine spill continue to highlight the state’s possible role in the disaster. The EPA released further details on Tuesday evening, hours before a congressional panel on Wednesday morning would interrogate Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on her department’s role in investigating the August spill that turned the Animas River a mustard-yellow color. State officials, in a September letter, contradicted the EPA’s account of how the incident unfolded. Mike King, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, was clear that the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) “did not have any authority to manage, assess, or approve any work at the Gold King Mine. “(DRMS experts) were at the Gold King site the morning of Aug. 5 at EPA’s invitation, but their visit had nothing to do with work on the Gold King adit that morning, and they did not determine or advise that excavation of the adit should be continued,” King wrote. The EPA has acknowledged fault in the incident, in which an estimated 3 million gallons of mining sludge poured into the Animas on Aug. 5. The river tested for initial spikes in heavy metals, including lead and arsenic. The EPA found “insufficient” planning led to the spill. A contracted team was beginning reclamation work at Gold King with excavation at the entrance to the mine when debris gave way, releasing the contaminated wastewater. The team should have tested water pressure by drilling into the mine, investigations have found. The EPA has maintained since an Aug. 24 internal investigation that the state was on board with a plan to send drainage piping through the entrance of the mine, despite King stating that “operations at Gold King were entirely under EPA management.” In the documents released Tuesday evening, the EPA does not retract any statements regarding the state’s role, instead further underscoring its partnership. “Throughout the winter and early spring months of 2015, EPA, DRMS and others were developing plans for an approach to assess a path forward for the (Gold King Mine) site ...” the newest narrative from the EPA states. “With consultation from DRMS as well as contractor support, the team began additional excavation to identify the location of bedrock above and around the adit ...” the EPA account continues. Despite the discrepancy between the state and federal accounts of the incident, the EPA maintains that the state played a role. To view the full article visit the Durango Herald.