August 23, 2015--EPA likely not prepared for scope of Gold King Mine blowout (Durango Herald)

U.S. officials knew of the potential for a catastrophic “blowout” of wastewater from an inactive gold mine yet appeared to have only a cursory plan to deal with such an event when government contractors triggered a 3-million-gallon spill, according to internal documents released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA released the documents late Friday after weeks of prodding from several media organizations. The Aug. 5 spill came as workers excavated the entrance to the idled Gold King Mine near Silverton, accidentally unleashing a torrent of pent-up, contaminated water that fouled rivers in three states. Among the documents is a June 2014 work order for a planned cleanup that noted the old mine had not been accessible since 1995, when the entrance partially collapsed. “This condition has likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse,” the report says. “Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.” A May 2015 action plan for the mine also noted the potential for a blowout. The plan was produced by Environmental Restoration LLC, a private contractor working for the EPA. It was not clear what, if any, additional precautions were taken to prepare for such a release. EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said Saturday she could not immediately answer questions about the matter. To view the full article and report visit the Durango Herald.