EPA causes a major environmental disaster, the question is: will it fine itself and fire those involved?

From the “if a citizen or company did this there would be hell to pay” department:

Guest essay by  (via Somewhat Reasonable)

The Environmental Protection Agency often justifies its own existence by noting that corporations, who see profit as their goal rather than environmental protection, are ill-equipped (or at least, ill-prioritized) to care for America’s natural resources.

It turns out that, perhaps, the EPA might also be ill-equipped to handle toxic waste when it comes to preventing large-scale pollution of our nation’s waterways. In fact, they may have caused, on its own, one of our nation’s greatest environmental disasters. EPA crews trying to collect and contain waste water in the Gold King mine in Durango, Colorado, loosed 1.1 million gallons of “acidic, yellowish” discharge, causing the pollution – which includes levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, aluminum and copper – to flow into the Animas River (an early tributary of the Colorado) at a rate of 1200 gallons per minute.

From the Denver Post:

Polluted water flows down the Animas River Friday morning, August 7, 2015. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

Polluted water flows down the Animas River Friday morning, August 7, 2015. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

EPA chiefs flew in Friday and acknowledged an inappropriate initial response Wednesday in which they downplayed the severity and failed to anticipate the downstream impacts.

Durango identifies itself as the “River City,” and residents’ lives revolve around fishing, swimming, tubing and entertaining tourists along the Animas River.

Most longtime residents know too well the problem of old mines that leak heavy metals into headwaters — an issue around Colorado and the western United States — but never expected a ruinous onslaught like this.

Holly Jobson, 62, walking at noon along banks where yellow sediment was glomming onto rocks, said Silverton ought to push for a proper federal cleanup around mines. Silverton officials in the past have resisted, fearing the stigma of a federal Superfund cleanup designation and the impact on tourism.

By this morning, the waterflow had decreased to around 580 gallons per minute. Lab testing has not yet begun on site, and the EPA is apologizing for their slow response rate, particularly considering the magnitude of the incident. Durango gets most of its water from the Aminas River and relies on the river’s beauty to bring tourists to the town. The city has already lost $150,000 in revenue this month. 1,000 water wells are presumed contaminated.

"People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in water colored from a mine waste spill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that a cleanup team was working with heavy equipment Wednesday to secure an entrance to the Gold King Mine. Workers instead released an estimated 1 million gallons of mine waste into Cement Creek, which flows into the Animas River. (Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT"

People kayak in the Animas River near Durango, Colo., Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, in water colored from a mine waste spill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said that a cleanup team was working with heavy equipment Wednesday to secure an entrance to the Gold King Mine. Workers instead released an estimated 1 million gallons of mine waste into Cement Creek, which flows into the Animas River. (Jerry McBride The Durango Herald via AP)

The EPA has not only claimed responsibility for the spill, but is claiming responsibility for a slow response as well. The EPA says now that the spill was far faster, and far larger than they initially assumed.

The EPA did not have to be on site, to begin with, it seems. The region has a coalition of local organizations called the Animas River Stakeholders Group who have worked together since 1994 to address pollution coming out of nearby mines. The Gold King mine is widely known to be one of the most polluted, leaking around 50 to 250 gallons of waste water per minute. While the group had pushed to find the source of the leak and stem it from there, the EPA went ahead with the project apart from the group, and seemingly without local expertise.

UPDATE: The EPA has now released new figures, and its now 3 million gallons of toxic wastewater and climbing

Emily Zanotti is researcher and writer for The Heartland Institute, and a blogger and columnist for the The American Spectator. She is a ten-year veteran of political communications and online journalism based out of Chicago, where she runs her own digital media firm. Her work has appeared at her former blog, NakedDC, on the opinion page of the Wall Street Journal and across the web.


354 thoughts on “EPA causes a major environmental disaster, the question is: will it fine itself and fire those involved?

  1. This is a real environmental disaster.
    It’s probably worth brainstorming what to do about it before the piling in on the blame.
    I mean, we know who is to blame. But do we know what to do about real pollution?

      • Watch the commercial all the way through – 49 seconds – then you’ll get the metaphor. EPA Bulldozer nudging concrete plug which is the only thing preventing a towering labyrinth of mine water from pouring out. What could possibly go wrong?

      • Did the EPA have legal authority to be on that private land?  Did they have the land owners permission?  Did they have a warrant signed by a Judge?  We need a Congressional hearing on this put of co tell outfit.  Who protects us from the EPA? 

    • “But do we know what to do about real pollution?”
      Well for one AGW apologists need to stop deregulating environmentally destructive industries to the point of universal legal immunity – case in point ^^^ the article above. F’ing hypocrites…

      • The above agency is a government agency and, as such, is regulated.
        Therefore, to blame deregulation for this evil is completely and totally stupid and evil.

      • Yeah, NotTheOne,
        You tell ’em! Those Gold King environmental rapists were doing their rape of Mother Gaia all the way up until 1924! Rape those raping rapers! I’ll bet George W. Bush was right there with them! Think of all the laws they broke even before that bastid Nixon created the EPA!

    • Wrong, Pile On good and hard.
      Give them everything they deserve and more. See that, for once, those responsible are punished. Then force the EPA out of the picture. This is the end result of them screwing up everything about those mines for decades.
      With the EPA gone, there will be room for people who know what is going on to come in and clean up the mess.

      • Tony, I visited the area over the weekend (as I have dozens of times). The river through Silverton was already essentially normal. If you ask local mineralogists about the composition of the minerals in the area, all of the contents of the “spill” are indigenous. In fact, just the other side of the Red Mountains from Cement Creek, the Uncompahgre flows that color virtually year around above and through Ouray. The Red Mountains are red due to the heavy mineral deposits in the mountains. You can get an idea of the colors from Google Maps aerial view.
        The whole thing would have never happened if the EPA just let the water trickle out of the mine in the first place. It would have been diluted naturally, as it has for millennia. The photo below posted by Samuel P Cogar looks like most of the streams in the San Juan mountains. It is a mineral-rich area!

    • There is no clean up process for this. We can only hope that it’s highly diluted by time it reaches Lake Powell where the water will sink to the bottom and linger there for tens to hundreds of years.

      • No, it won’t. The discoloration is not sediment in the ordinary sense of the term. See downthread explanation. It can be diluted, certainly, and will be in Lake Powell. But only RO desalination can fix that water.

    • No, those on the response team need to come up with a response plan. Our job is to point out that the buffoonish focus by the epa on the non issue of climate change has made them ill prepared to devote proper attention and resources to real environmental problems.

    • Okay, how about reforms on permits for agencies to do this type of work and full disclosure to all communities and local governments and the public before hand. Was there any notice given on the workplan?

    • http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-08-12/did-epa-intentionally-poison-animas-river-secure-superfund-money
      A week before The EPA disastrously leaked millions of gallons of toxic waste into The Animas River in Colorado, this letter to the editor was published in The Silverton Standard & The Miner local newspaper, authored by a retired geologist detailing verbatim, how EPA would foul the Animas River on purpose in order to secure superfund money…
      “But make no mistake, within seven days, all of the 500gpm flow will return to Cememnt Creek. Contamination may actually increase… The “grand experiment” in my opinion will fail.
      And guess what [EPA’s] Mr. Hestmark will say then?
      Gee, “Plan A” didn’t work so I guess we will have to build a treat¬ment plant at a cost to taxpayers of $100 million to $500 million (who knows).
      Reading between the lines, I believe that has been the EPA’s plan all along”

      • That was the EPA plan from the beginning. Also, Lake Powell is the favorite holiday fishing place of all those politically unacceptable “rednecks” from Utah, Colorado, and Arizona, who rent houseboats every year and have good time with their politically unacceptable brats. Damn breeders. A perfect water reservoir to poison, don’t you think?

  2. I suppose such rank double standards can also be seen in the way that ‘they’ get away with the mass slaughter of birds and bats by the diabolical wind and solar factories – whereas anyone else would have to ‘stand tall before The Man’. I expect they’ll wriggle out of this one too, as per usual…

    • The typical heavy-handed, we-know-better-than-you, incompetent, dictatorial attitude of the federal government in a nutshell …
      “While the group had pushed to find the source of the leak and stem it from there, the EPA went ahead with the project apart from the group, and seemingly without local expertise.”

    • This event is likely to stick in the public,s mind for some time. It is such a classic example of bureaucratic ineptitude. They believe that no one understands the issues better than themselves, and thus solve a given problem. Their stance on catastrophic climate change fits right in with that thought.

    • “EPA causes a major environmental disaster, the question is: will it fine itself and fire those involved?”,
      Firing is the only proper thing because fining a public government department is pointless seeing as it is all tax payers money anyway. Having said that, its unlikely that anyone will get fired. only firing nowadays occurs when a young office girl/ intern is involved and even Clinton got away with that.!

    • The discharge is 580 gallons/minute.
      24 hours/day 60 minutes/hour = 1440 minutes/day
      1440 minutes/day x 580 gallons/minute = 835,200 gallons/day
      Every day that the discharge isn’t stopped is another .8 million gallons

      • Let’s hope that when the lab tests come back they show there aren’t any major ‘nasties’ in there, despite the garish yellow colour of the sediment. I suppose that depends partly on what the old mine was for and what was used in there at the time.
        I recall the tailing lake which burst its banks in Romania, back in 2000, spewing millions of gallons of bright red, poisonous sludge onto the surrounding land and settlements – let’s hope to goodness it’s not a re-run of that scale of disaster…

      • Dreadnaught, the nasties are there. For sure lead, arsenic, and cadmium. The local Durango folks have been worried about this mine leaking for years (50-250 gallons per day) and had the analyses.

    • Yes, upstream of about everything on the Colorado River, including Lake Powell, upstream from Lake Meade.
      Woe be to Durango.

    • ANd just what does this do to the drinking water supply for essentially everyone in the Southeast USA? Last I heard, even LA gets most of their water from the Colorado River.

    • It first drains into the San Juan river which goes into Lake Powell, which is NE of the Grand Canyon and of course drains through the Grand Canyon into Lake Mead. So all that water will be affected…

    • Leaking since the 1920s.
      I wonder what is or is not being done to stop the 580 GPM flow into the river?
      So all of this will wind up in Lake Powell, and since the Glen Canyon dam is a major source of power for the region, and a major source of irrigation water, and is also the main source of flow for the lower Colorado River…it will not be possible to simply shut of the flow from Lake Powell, I wonder what the turnover time for the various dams on this river system is? 10 years? 20? 50?
      If this is ionic suspension, rather than sediment, it will not just settle out…will it?
      I think they need to do whatever can be done to try and neutralize this flow before it reaches Lake Powell and is diluted.
      Perhaps dumping chelating agent by the multi-ton load into the river at the leading edge of the contamination.
      Do it fast.

  3. This is the same EPA which denies small landholders the use of their own property if water is slow to drain during a rain, by calling the puddle “wetlands” which must be “protected” and all of this in contravention of the “takings clause” of the US Constitution. There is no help for you if beavers build a dam and back water up on your place, as you just lost your rights to graze, or build a structure, or to use the land and that which surrounds it for any of your own purposes.

  4. President Barack Obama insisted at the weekend: ‘BP is responsible for this leak. BP will be paying the bill’.
    White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said yesterday: ‘We will keep our boot on the throat of BP to ensure that they’re doing all that they, all that is necessary, while we do all that is humanly possible to deal with this incident.’
    What is he saying about this ecological disaster?……….crickets…..

    • You want to know something more blood-boiling?
      Given the Cradle-to-Grave requirement, the owner of the mine is legally liable for all the damage caused by the EPA spill.
      The actions of third parties, up to and including crimes and fraud committed against the generator, do not absolve the generator from any liability for their waste. The EPA can legally bill the owner of the mine for all cleanup and give THEM a multi-billion dollar fine for this. Given this agency, they might try actually do it.
      RCRA’s a nasty law, especially if you get on the wrong side of it with something that cannot be burned.

  5. Another in a long line of incompetent federal bureaucracies. Of course they should be shut down, but as with the TSA (which failed to detect bombs and weapons 90% of the time in unannounced tests) the EPA instead will most likely demand more taxpayer money to improve their incompetency level.

      • No, it is not liberalism, it is socialism. Liberalism means you are free to use your money and buy what you want, even if I don’t like it. Socialism is this endless series of expensive failures for the common good caused by ‘somebody else’ and with the promise ‘next time it will work out’.
        Repeat after me: greens are not liberal, they are socialists; greens are not liberal, they are socialists; greens are not liberal, they are socialists; greens are not liberal, they are socialists…

    • jvcstone. EPA asking for more money to clean up the mess they caused is a certainty. It is also a certainty that they will find someone else to blame, fine, sue, etc.. Now they have the opportunity to ask for hundreds of missions of dollars for a long term monitoring and rehabilitation project on the Animas river. An ill wind always blows favorably for a self-justifying (through fraud and lies) monster agency. Although the pollution will undoubtedly reach Lake Powell and Lake Mead, I doubt that EPA will ever mention it. Unless of course if they find it politically and financially useful.
      EPA is a rouge monster ripping and slashing Constitutional law in America.

    • The same kind of incompetent boobs want to run our heath care system. They are doing such a great job for our military and veterans/sarc. Maybe we deserve the same crappy treatment, we elected these boobs. I would just like to say to all our officials — Please don’t help us anymore!

    • Sounds a bit like the Environment Agency here in the UK. It slavishly followed EU rules regarding the Somerset Levels here in the SW of thecountry. These rules totally disregarded local advice on the need to dredge the water channels so lo and behold as a result there were devastating floods during the 2013 – 2014 winter. About 17,000 acres of farmland were flooded, with one village abandonded and several more totally cut off. But, of course, the Environment Agency was not to blame – it was a “natural event”. Fhe flood waters only started to recede after they brought in huge pumps from the Netherlands, who, of course, have a great deal of experience in managing low lying flood prone areas.

      • Even now, the Environment Agency has only been forced to maintain/dredge two meagre 4 mile sections of the Parrett and Tone. Formerly the entire system of drains was maintained continually.
        And for good reason. The channels are man-made and carry water from uplands across the levels. The extremely low gradient and low flow velocity of the channels allows for high deposition of silt. Constant maintenance is unfortunately a design prerequisite.
        No use leaving such a system to nature – since it isn’t natural. It is a man made engineering project and should be treated as such.
        I believe that somewhere in the region of £10 million was spent on the 8 mile dredging program.
        Although I suspect that that includes about £9.5 million for consultation and vole counting, and then £500K for the diggers and manpower.
        The concern now, should be, what about the rest of the Somerset drainage system that is in the hands of the EA.
        I think that we need to rephrase the protest – “give the Somerset rivers back to the people of Somerset”.
        Why were the fools at the EA ever handed this power to destroy the Somerset environment.
        The local drainage boards charged drainage rates and maintained this system without fault for decades before the EA came in and buggered everything up.
        Anyway, only 8 miles have been dredged so, expect more floods downstream of the catastrophe of 2014.
        If they had really learned then they would have reinstated the dredging barges, which they scrapped in the 1990’s – and dredged the entire length of all the major channels, starting at the sea and working inland.
        Over time, this would have been the most cost effective approach.
        However, the EA now has a taste for the profitability of disaster…

    • I think the EPA should arrest the EPA and suspend their mandate to oversee environmental issues.

      • A lot of environmental laws do not have a criminal intent clause, so several of the people in the EPA could be facing serious prison time.

  6. I agree the EPA needs to be taken in tow but disasters like this are dangerous in other ways to that goal, Some nit wit in Washington will suggest that we need to create a “super” bureaucracy to oversee EPA, Corps of Engineers, BLM, Fish and Wildlife…just as homeland security is to federal law enforcement.

  7. From a Fox News story on the matter:
    “David Ostrander, an EPA spokesman, said last week the agency is taking responsibility for the incident. “We typically respond to emergencies, we don’t cause them, but this is just something that happens when we are dealing with mines sometimes,” Ostander said.” (Source: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/08/10/navajo-nation-aims-to-sue-epa-over-devastating-mining-spill/?intcmp=hpbt3)
    Can you imagine the uproar if a mining company caused a contamination a fraction the size of this one, and their spokesperson made an official statement along the lines of, “This is just something that happens when we are mining sometimes.”

    • “Can you imagine the uproar if a mining company caused a contamination a fraction the size of this one”
      Actually, the mining company WAS the cause. Just not the immediate cause.
      Just saying…

      • So this would have happened if the mining company had designed the mine in a responsible manner? I think not. The mine is indirectly responsible.

      • dbstealey: “trafamadore has no understanding of the Constitution.”
        You must mean this one, from the de facto bill of rights:
        Article 3.5: capitalists have the right to wreck the landscape and the taxpayers must pay to clean up the mess.
        True enuf. You must be right! Good one.

      • Ex post facto
        ex post facto adj. Formulated, enacted, or operating retroactively. [Med Lat., from what is done afterwards] Source: AHD
        In U.S. Constitutional Law, the definition of what is ex post facto is more limited. The first definition of what exactly constitutes an ex post facto law is found in Calder v Bull (3 US 386 [1798]), in the opinion of Justice Chase:
        1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender.

      • The mining company created a mess, I won’t dispute that. However, they kept the mess contained. It was the EPA who mishandled the mess and caused it pollute the streams.
        And my bigger point was the ridiculousness of the EPA’s statement that this was just something that happens sometimes.

      • Ex post facto

        The prohibition against ex post facto penalties applies to criminal punishments. OTW the Superfund law would have been held unconstitutional.

      • By your logic, G*d (or Gaia) was the ultimate cause, because if he (or she) had not put the mountains there, there would not have been any mining.
        In fact, one could take your stupid logic to any extreme for almost any situation in an effort to avoid responsibility. If a drunk driver gets in a wreck and kills somebody, he’s not responsible. He wouldn’t be drunk if companies didn’t make alcoholic beverages (and yeasts didn’t convert sugars to alcohol), and he wouldn’t be driving if car companies didn’t make cars.
        The EPA was the cause of the spill.

      • trafamadore, Perhaps if your family had deep roots in that region, you might have a different view. I am intimately familiar with the geography around there. The EPA caused all of the problems in question.

      • “Actually, the mining company WAS the cause. Just not the immediate cause.”
        Just continue jumping through hoops to make this a private sector accident. It is rather entertaining. (oops, replying to a troll. *hitting oneself at fingers with a stick*)

    • trafamadore I believe dbstealey is referencing the Ex Post Facto Law As well “Impairing the Obligations of Contracts”
      And he is correct, they support his statements.
      Oh and db, I also took constitution Law.

      • Mike,
        The Constitution is clear and explicit in Art. 1, Sec. 9. It makes no distinction regarding “criminal” actions. In only a dozen words it clearly states:
        No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
        If the mine was operating legally and according to the regulations in effect at the time it closed, the owners were not at fault. Period. There are many thousands of abandoned mines in the country. The only reason this disaster happened was because of the EPA’s deliberate malfeasance.
        Some of the specious logic seen above would also apply to the descendants of slave owners who never oned a slave, but who would presumably be required pay compensation to people who were never slaves themselves, for doing something that was legal and accepted at the time…
        …oh, wait. They’re still trying that end run around the Constitution.
        The EPA is muddying the waters in more ways than one. They would love to have people discussing a century old mine, instead of discussing their personal culpability — which was clearly predicted. The constitutional question is simply a red herring argument, intended to distract from what appears to be deliberate EPA sabotage of the environment.
        EPA bureaucrats are treated very differently from everyone in private industry. Would some of their apologists like to explain that discrepancy? And where does the buck stop? Who was the EPA decision maker? That person should at the very least be out of a job. If not, why not?

      • According to liberals, private citizens and companies have a legal obligation not only to be perfect, but to be able to predict the results of their actions with 100% accuracy hundreds of years into the future.
        On the other hand, no matter how badly govt messes up, it’s always the private sector’s fault.

      • @ dbstealey August 11, 2015 at 10:32 am

        If the mine was operating legally and according to the regulations in effect at the time it closed, the owners were not at fault.

        HA, tell that to the Hooker Chemical Co. in regard to Love Canal.
        Hooker Chemical involuntarily sold the site (Love Canal) to the Niagara Falls School Board in 1953 for $1, with a deed detailing the presence of dangerous chemical wastes and including a liability limitation clause about the contamination.[1] Long after having taken control of the land the School Board proceeded to have it developed, including construction activity that substantially breached containment structures in a number of ways, allowing previously trapped chemicals to seep out. The resulting breaches combined with particularly heavy rainstorms released and spread the chemical waste, leading to a public health emergency and an urban planning scandal. In what became a test case for liability clauses Hooker Chemical was found to be “negligent” in their disposal of waste, though not reckless in the sale of the land.
        Read more @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Canal

      • Samuel Cogar,
        Not the same thing. Clearly Hooker knew that the Love Canal site was a major liability, since they included a clause trying to absolve themselves of liability.
        But there are many thousands of century old abandoned mines in the country (the U.S. Geological Survey office in Menlo Park, California, provides detailed maps showing numerous abandoned mines). The sort of liability you cite regarding Love Canal is not the same as somemone digging a mine in what was a wilderness.
        If we are to judge all past actions the same way, then we would have no choice but to return the continental U.S. to native Americans.
        The EPA just loves these distractions. The last thing they want is for people to start asking where the buck stops; who made the final decision to unleash the conaminants along a hundred miles of rivers, and why must taxpayers foot the entire bill? Because the most rational and productive outcome would be for EPA head McCarthy to become unemployed due to this avoidable disaster on her watch. That would go a long way toward making sure this sort of thing would become much less likely in future, no?

      • dbstealey,
        Did you notice this statement, to wit:
        “Hooker Chemical involuntarily sold the site
        Hooker refused to sell the SB the property …. and only did so after they were pressured by the SB and the citizens and then only when the SB gave them a written agreement that the property would only be used as a playground and/or park and no construction would ever occur on it.
        But the SB decided to sell it to “housing developers” and reaped million of dollars in doing so. But no Judge or jury will convict a School Board and force them to pay tens of millions in damages because it will be “your tax money” they will be expending.
        It was Politically Correct to make Hooker pay.

  8. I think the most interesting aspect (and the one most likely to be open to criticism) is the apparent ignoring of the local community group. Perhaps the “We are with the government and are here to help you. Now get out of the way and do as we tell you.” syndrome.

    • Reminds me of the last government shutdown when the Obama administration decided to barricade open air monuments just to spite anyone that might dare walk through during the standoff. Here in Utah the local communities begged the feds to allow them to keep the national parks open using their own local dollars but the Obama administration refused.
      The entire premise behind taking federal ownership in the first place was to guarantee that these national wonders would remain open to everyone. But at the first little hiccup they bar the gates. If they can’t be trusted to do what they claim to do they have no reason to exist. Let Colorado regulate their own mines, and tell the epa to take a hike.

      • I remember that. There was zero cost to the govt. to keep them open but a point had to be made, and so they were closed. The feds barricaded (among other things) the WWII Memorial on the national mall, but many of the old vets were there for their first (and probably last) visit ever. The old vets pushed aside the barricades and went in anyway to pay their respects to their fallen brothers. The next day the feds had chained together and padlocked all the barricades. Hey, no 90-year-old D-Day survivor gets to dis the prezzy and get away with it.

    • Yes. That is a huge aspect. The local community had knowledge, mineral assays, and had been working on this. All ignored by the EPA. BIG Government on full display downthread.

    • Sure, do you have an expert local community group to oversee the lessening of pain when a dentist extracts a tooth, an expert local community group to report worn tires on cars, an expert local community group to take away babies from mothers said to be feeding them improperly — and so on and so on.
      I’d suggest that you leave it to the experts. Or are you Ralph Nader writing incognito?

      • My car tires have to pass a yearly safety inspection, mandated by the state and conducted by a high school dropout at the local tire shop. I don’t have to book a time for a federal Dept of Transportation inspector to come by and approve them.
        Many Americans can’t afford to have dental work in this country anymore, and dental “tourism” is booming. Why pay an American dentist $50,000 for the same work you can get done for $1,500 in a Mexican border town?
        The sad part is that sickly Mexicans are flooding across the border to the north to get free medical care in US hospitals, while Americans are crossing the border to the south to get affordable care from mexican doctors and dentists.

      • Because some actions don’t need to be overseen by an “expert local community group” is not evidence that no actions need to be overseen by such groups.
        Basic logic, maybe you should try it.

  9. This is the kind of real environmental disaster one might expect EPA to prevent. Devastating incompetence.

  10. What, this spill never happened.
    A committee will be struck by the EPA to investigate the actions of the EPA.
    For the rest of us, it is business as usual; Good Enough For Government.
    Remember when these bureaucrats extort the return on your labour and then use it to do massive damage, its called Investing in your future.
    Just another fine buzzword from the progressive parasites, investment to be substituted for infestation?

  11. To have even attempted to mess with any existing dam without an approved dam/containment downstream is insane. But wait, the EPA would have approved that containment. And they were doing the work, and they know what they are doing, and they don’t need any stinking EPA approval they are the EPA.
    But I think it is much simpler than that they wanted more control and this was just supposed to be a minor incident (like they said at first) to demonstrate exactly why they need more control – all the way up river to the water coming out of your downspout and running into a sometimes creek.
    Guarantee they will AMP-UP all existing “waterway” regulations providing an order of magnitude increase in number and requirements before the “problem” is resolved.

    • Yes. You know you have leakage through the mine entrance backfill. That means you know there is water backed up behind the ‘plug’. Not to have built a containment cofferdam before futzing with the entrance backfill is criminal negligence.

      • What do you do with the water that then fills the coffer dam? Release it slowly into a nearby river? It will probably get there by itself over a long period.
        Water is a really difficult material to contain and control in large volumes over long times.

      • Geoff, water is hard to contain, therefore don’t even bother.
        Do you really believe that the EPA would let a private contractor get away with that excuse?

    • Interesting, an engineered minor spill for political gain that got away from them. The fellow upthread is right, the hard drives have already crashed.

      • And there is an Editorial, predating the event, from a local paper down thread explaining more. Smell worse than a rat, more like a skunk.

  12. Notice how the media plays softball w/the EPA — oh, it’s no big deal….
    What if one of the evil coal or oil companies had caused this? Hordes of paid greenies would be converging on the town to protest.

    • Didn’t that coal “cleaning”company ed p paying for lodging and many other expenses over a spill of “toxic solution,” (as declared by the EPA at the time), that was later found to be no worse than bath soap.

      • If it is of any consolation, mine waste often contains heavy metal bound up as Sulphides. These dont tend to leach or become soluble at the stated pH. Most likely suspended solids that will find their way to the bottom and just end up as a layer of sediment. Eventually covered with natural sediment, rendering the whole thing quite harmless in the long run. Or maybe not, there is not enough information in the article.

  13. EPA was much better at standing around acting mad or getting in the way of the BP gulf oil spill effort. Getting their hands dirty shows just how incompetent they really are. They better stick with fraud science and made up numbers back at headquarters next time. This engineering work is hard and totally disrupts the media manipulation program.

  14. If this was in the UK there would be promotions and big bonuses all round. After all, they only spilled 1.1million gallons – it could have been far worse and they prevented a much larger spill.

  15. They had the balls to post signs in the affected area reading in part, “We ask that citizens stay out of the river water until the discoloration has passed” If this was a private firm, there would be front page headlines claiming the environment will be damaged for 100 years and arguing for more ‘help’ and regulation from the EPA.

  16. For pete’s sake stop all this complaining. It’s OK to create a little pollution in the name of progress and in a couple of years no body will remember this except the greenies. Nature will fix this just like it has done with the big Gulf oil spill a few years ago. If you want to get pissed ask yourself this: Why didn’t the original operators of the mine clean this up when the mine played out in the first place? Easy to point fingers at the EPA (funded by our tax dollars) instead of the people who created the problem to begin with. Considering the thousands of abandoned mining sites around the country this story will likely be repeated over and over. Turns out there is a program call Self Bonding that lets miners avoid holding reserve funds or insurance to clean up their mines when they close so maybe we should start by repealing Self Bonding rules.

    • Well, the problem is that this is heavy metal contamination. You can’t treat metals. You can just remove them and put them somewhere forever. The original owner fulfilled their obligation by putting the metals in the mine, and their efforts and the result were approved by the agency. Then, years later, a small leak developed and the agency went in with a half-baked plan that gave catastrophic results.

    • Maybe we should dig up the bones of the original operators and interrogate them. The history of the mines is an interesting read…http://www.miningartifacts.org/Colorado-Mines.html
      This disaster is all about the EPA. If the government wants to see good results, then they should award the task to private industry. I would much rather see the several tens of billions of dollars a year, which are now committed to CAGW, go to take care of environmental problems from our mining past.

      • If the government wants to see good results, then they should award the task to private industry.
        exactly. why didn’t the EPA contract this out? they have a conflict of interest if they are both measuring contamination and cleaning it up. there is a temptation for the EPA to fudge the figures if they do the cleanup. the EPA managers will order their employees to find the EPA did a wonderful job.

        • Reading comments of some who obviously know a good deal about mines, the consensus amongst them was that the EPA had failed at what should have been a mining 101 problem. Drill a hole in the plug to ascertain the height of the water in the tunnel, before attempting to open that tunnel. That sounds to me like a very practical common sense procedure. Evidently, the EPA has a hard time dealing with common sense problems.

      • Exactly Goldminor. This mine closed in the 1920s.
        People commenting should at least get the bare bones before opining on who is to blame.

        • Actually, the mine was last worked in 1991 by the Sunnyside Mining group. They are the ones who dug the American Tunnel, which is the one that the EPA broke into. Sunnyside set up a water treatment plant after they closed the mine. They then set up and funded another company to manage the treatment plant, and that also allowed them to end their cleanup obligations to the mine. In further reading, it is said that the treatment plant was successful at improving downstream, stream and river conditions over the years of operation, until they ran out of money to maintain the plant. To my mind here is where the government lets everyone down. Why wouldn’t the government come to the aid of the treatment plant to have kept it functioning? Downstream conditions worsened again after the closing of the treatment plant. Where was the EPA back then?

    • “For pete’s sake stop all this complaining. It’s OK to create a little pollution in the name of progress and in a couple of years no body will remember this except the greenies. Nature will fix this just like it has done with the big Gulf oil spill a few years ago”
      Is it possible for a person to be as clueless as you are making yourself out to be?
      A few facts:
      – BP and an army of cleanup experts and volunteers worked for years to clean up oil and tar balls, everywhere from the bottom of the Gulf to the beaches hundreds of miles away. This included skimmers, booms to contain and absorb oil, dispersants and detergents to help the natural degradation process, etc.
      Oil has a large fraction which can be readily digested by microorganisms in the gulf, and a portion of the oil will simply evaporate.
      The amount spent to clean up and mitigate the damage is in the multiple billions and counting.
      To state that nature fixed it is really unbelievable.
      -Oil is oil. It is a mixture of organic compounds, many of which are volatile and all of which can be degraded by chemical and biological processes. None of these things are true of heavy metal pollution.
      heavy metal contamination is bad enough when contained, or drifting slowly through groundwater or old mine shafts and tunnels.
      Let loose into a river which is teaming with fish and other wildlife, is a source of drinking and irrigation water for a significant portion of the population of the entire country, and which is a popular recreational destination besides, makes this a disaster which will just keep giving.
      Stop complaining?
      Are you insane?

      • That BP oil spill could have been capped in 3 weeks. In fact, when I saw the ridiculous “top hat” apparatus, I was amazed. But when I saw a submersible cutting pipe away from the defective blow-out preventer, I had to tell someone what the solution was. I emailed Neil Cavuto at Fox News and suggested that if the submersible can cut pipe, Obviously it can take the bolts out of the flange visible in the video and bolt on something appropriate. Three weeks later a primitive arrangement (without proper venting valves) called “top hat 2” was bolted on. This BP disaster was possibly engineered.

  17. At one time, the EPA helped us clean up real pollution. Today’s corrupted EPA is more concerned with a power grab and other agenda that is counter to it’s reason for existence. They continue to impose unjustified, harmful regulations with impunity in many realms, making their own rules.
    This is what they did to photosynthesis, Instead of:
    Sunshine +H2O +CO2 +Minerals = O2 +Sugars(food) according to the EPA, we have:
    Sunshine +H20 +Pollution +Minerals = O2 +Sugars(food)

  18. Obviously a disaster. I am not trying to down play the significance. Has anyone seen an analysis of the down stream effects? As the contamination is deluted as it moves down stream, how far will the toxin levels be hazardous?

    • And what about the long term effects off all this acid and heavy metals on the aquatic and other life? How will it spread into the eco system? What a great opportunity for eco researchers to get more grants from the government

    • The EPA has tested the water, but they won’t release the numbers until they’re good and ready. From the Denver Post (http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_28608746/epas-colorado-mine-disaster-plume-flows-west-toward):
      Environmental Protection Agency regional chief Shaun McGrath on Saturday conceded that federal officials know the levels of the heavy metals in Cement Creek and the Animas River but would not reveal early testing results. “Those data sheets have not been finalized by the scientists,” McGrath said. “As soon as we are able to release them, we will.”

  19. There are whole square miles of that orange colored rock/clay in the San Juans. They just flushed it down the rivers all at once.

  20. Dump a large load of lime at the source first and precipitate the metals as insoluble hydroxides. Then liming the river just enough to make the pH~7 – there is wild life in and along the river to consider so too much might do more harm. The mine area should be grouted off and the water table drawn down by pumping into a lined, lime treatment pond. 4M gallons is 15,000cu m; 1200gpm is 270cu m/hr. Knowing the stream flow rate, the right amount of lime could be added to the river at the source of contamination but job one is to stop the contamination asap.

    • Re: downstream, if there is enough water in the system, it will be pretty diluted. Precautionary liming before the next town or two should be done NOW and of course, quick turnaround water assay sampling. I hope they aren’t planning to hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss it first.

      • Good thinking. I was having the same thought…it is easier to neutralize these materials while they are still concentrated, and doing it sooner minimizes the affected area. If mitigation and neutralization is not being done, the big question has got to be…why the hell not?
        These are people who never lift a pencil before doing an impact study…unfortunately, by the time anything can be studied, it will be too late to do anything except study the contamination and damage.
        What about cheating agents? Is it too dilute for those to help?
        Is it possible to precipitate such materials in such volume is moving water?
        Lime is fairly innocuous stuff, they should be doing it if it will help even a little.

    • The mine area should be grouted off and the water table drawn down by pumping into a lined, lime treatment pond.
      Yes, but only with wind powered or solar powered pumps. Anything else would make climate change worse,
      Feel badly for the people and wildlife involved, but couldn’t help make that one sarcastic comment. Cleanups of this kind of mess can only be accomplished at all because we have access to fossil fuel powered machinery.

  21. A polluted river will be a thing of the past. Our children will not know what a polluted river looks like

      • Flammable would be easy. We can treat oil. Fire and biology can break down oil.
        There’s much less that you can do with heavy metals.

  22. Maybe if the EPA would focus on real pollution instead of taking their eye off the ball for the CO2 boogeyman, they would be focused enough not to cause a tragedy of this magnitude. This will make its way thru Lake Mead with only a final stop into the ocean. There will be no accountability, just scapegoats.

    • This will make it into Lake Mead and then the Las Vegas water supply, but probably no one in Vegas will notice, sounds sarcastic but I actually mean it, an awful lot of people in Vegas are just dense.

    • “Maybe if the EPA would focus on real pollution instead of taking their eye off the ball for the CO2 boogeyman,”
      This is exactly what I cannot stop thinking about.
      While they wail and gnash teeth over a fictional problem, they are inept in the extreme in dealing with real issues, or even understanding the actual science of the imaginary problem.

  23. It’s easy to pile on the EPA here for making a bad mistake, but what is being missed is that the EPA was trying to fix a mess that was left behind by irresponsible mine owners of the past, albeit probably going about it in the wrong way. Good comments on linked Denver Post article.
    Colorado is has many abandoned mines leaking contanminated water into creeks, streams, and other waterways.

    “Wednesday’s blowout, at the Gold King Mine in mountains above Silverton, showed the enormity of the problem of leaking old mines in Colorado and the West. Colorado natural resources officials overseeing old mines told The Denver Post they know of several hundred around the state leaking acid discharges into river headwaters. Cleanup has been done at about 9,000 abandoned mines, but the status of about 14,000 remains uncertain, said Bruce Stover, director of Colorado’s inactive mine reclamation program.”
    –Denver Post

    • The mine has been closed since 1923. What would’ve been the appropriate “responsible” action from the mine owners?
      They weren’t “fixing” anything…they were doing an investigation. Underestimating the spill by a factor of about 3, being slow with test results, proclaiming “nothing to see here,” etc, are big reasons to pile-on.

      • The EPA could have taken a page from the Dark Ages by exhuming the remains of the perpetrators, having them burned, and then reburied, a la John Wycliffe.

      • “We have got to tackle these eventually,” Stover said. “(Gold King) is one of the mines we’ve been struggling with for years. We’re trying to figure out what is going on and how to fix it. This is a vexing problem. … Not everybody is on the same page.
        EPA mine sight coordinator Hays Griswold, one of four workers at Gold King when an estimated 1 million or more gallons of orange acid water blew through a loose dirt barrier, said he had been working to install a pipe to drain rising water in the mine. That project, he said after the disaster, “couldn’t have worked. … Nobody expected the water to be that high.”

        –Denver Post

    • Are there any official records or studies showing that this mine waste has harmed a person? It might look ugly, it might taste ugly, but does it really affect the health of people as the concentrations they will ingest?
      The mines of the world, discovered or to be discovered, all have potential to add their load to Nature.
      Is there an example of this Natural effluent ever harming anyone?

      • It’s not really “natural” if you dig tunnels through rock layers and create conduits for concentrated materials to bypass natural filtration or containment.
        That aside, you also have the distinction between chronic (low-dose/long time) and acute (high-dose/short time) exposure. Acute is pretty rare, particularly with adequate monitoring.

    • what is being missed is that the EPA was trying to fix a mess that was left behind by irresponsible mine owners of the past
      Don’t buy into that red herring. Past irresponsibility doesn’t trump the massive irresponsibility of the EPA minions who bought full responsibility by their mindless excavation without first determining the static elevation of the contained minewater. They broke it, and they bought it.

  24. Trouble with a Capital T.
    “If the President does it … it’s OK.” [the Nixon Rule]
    Queue the Music Man:

    Ha ha

    • Trouble, oh we got trouble,
      Right here in River City!
      With a capital “T”
      That rhymes with “P”
      And that stands for Pollution!

  25. There are two contamination problems. One is heavy metal bearing sediment, rock flour and the like. But hard rock metal mine waters are usually very acidic (e.g. from oxidative dissolution of iron pyrite and other sulfides, which creates sulfuric acid, which leaches any other metals present into solution). The downstream water discoloration is not yellow sediment. It is ‘yellow boy’. The main component is usually iron sulfide, which precipitates back out of solution as very fine nano particles when acid mine water pH is raised above 3. Iron pyrite’s finely precipitated color is yellow ‘fools gold’ without the pyrite glitter. The water is also full of completely dissolved other heavy metals, probably as both oxides and sulfides. Arsenic oxide dissolved in water is a deep orange, commonly discoloring acid mine seeps. Cadmium sulfide dissolved in water is bright yellow. Acid hard rock mine water (not just gold mines) is well studied, and a big problem. I just spent two hours studying up before commenting.
    Take another look at the color and turbidity of the water. That is not sediment like in the muddy Mississippi. It is much, much worse–yellow boy. And the local Durango folks tested the mine seepage before the EPA ever got involved. Lead, arsenic, cadmium, some aluminum, and copper in addition to iron.

    • ristvan,
      Thank you. I had just finished with a comment down thread questioning as to the possibility of the mine’s rock and/or water infiltration could contain/be naturally acidic.
      Hopefully we can gain knowledge here at WUWT so as to be ready for the likely onslaught from the enviro’s and the media.

      • TY. WUWT and CE are supposed to be science sites. I would like to keep them that way, so practice my own ‘The Arts of Truth’ ebook before commenting. Wonderful to now know about ‘yellow boy’. Still don’t know where the ‘boy’ part came from. Understand completely the yellow part. You can even find Google images of the main oxides/sulfides in water.
        Perhaps will research ‘boy’ after a glass or two of wine with dinner. Probably beats television.

      • I listened to an interview on this yesterday and yes, there are many “natural” seeps in the area as well as the mine seeps. I have seen similar seeps in the Canadian Rockies often.

    • There would still be fine clay particles in the assemblage and that is the main byproduct of the rock decay in acidic waters along with the metal oxides.

      • Checked. You are correct. Non-weathered clays, from the acidity. Obviously, I should have spent 3 hours on self education rather than 2. Learned yet another something new today. Sincere thanks.

    • Out hiking? These folks sit in front of a computer screen and look at the natural world using the same technology as your link.
      I hike.
      Well not much anymore. I now work on trails with wta dot org.

    • Noting the bare slopes, especially to the southeast.
      Any idea why some of these entire hills seem devoid of vegetation?

      • Back in the mining days the trees were stripped from the slopes for exploration and mining timbers, as well as for general usage. Much of that area is also above the tree line at high altitude.

  26. The pH level is 3.74 in Cement Creek. It’s worse than ocean acidification.
    The mine has been inactive/closed since 1923. Regulations in 1923?
    If the water in the mine has a pH of less than 3.74 would it be fair to say that the make-up of the mine’s rock of groundwater may be somewhat acidic?
    It’s worse than we thought. CO2 what done it. All rivers will be like this by 2025 if we don’t stop carbon pollution now. We only have 4 more months to change our ways.

    • The regulation in 1923 is to leave everything in the mine, no fuss, no problem. Many companies didn’t even do that.
      The problem is that the mines fill up with water, and all the disturbed rock leaches out metals at much higher rates than solid rock or dirt. That leads to extremely toxic water as every heavy metal in the region builds up to it’s maximum solubility.

    • Sort of what the Left will now claim with the usual funding trope.
      “If the EPA had only been given more funding…..”
      you know the rest. The Left loves to make shit up and blame a lack of money for bad things from government.

  27. The EPA union will never allow the idiots responsible to be punished. The collective bargaining agreement is prime..

  28. Mine cleanup would logically be the job of mine owners and operators who dug the mines. Why is a federal government agency in charge of it? There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of these “acid mine drainage” sites throughout the Colorado high country. Anybody who has hiked, backpacked, jeeped or skied the back country has come upon them… beautifully-colored orange-red scree slopes bleeding down into a permanently-discolored spring, creek or river. After seeing hundreds of these, it’s easy to forget that this is not really a good example of “local color”, and there really is no single person or agency responsible for fixing these messes left over from the early era of mining. The original miners have all long since passed on to that great placer mine in the sky, and their descendants would be destitute if required to reclaim the sites.
    A beautifully-written history of these mines in the West, along with some proposals for fixing the mess:

  29. Everybody hold your horses until real concentration data are known.
    This is an EPA-caused mess and the visuals are perfect for alarmist rabble-rousing, but the “toxic” label should be put on hold until the concentrations are known
    “High levels of iron, zinc, and copper” used to be “Three of the Twelve Ways Wonder Bread Builds Strong Bodies”
    Aluminum never harmed anyone.
    Even the trace metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic, etc) may not be an issue, depending on the concentration and immediate dilution. And, of course, there must be a credible and persistent pathway from the source to the [potentially] harmed organism before there is any discernible “risk”
    “Dilution is the Solution to Pollution” is still an operable strategy.

    • And isn’t copper sulfate one of the common treatments spread over municipal water supply reservoirs by the waterworks?

        • Copper Sulfate is also used for algae or aquatic plant management. (Wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t know and hadn’t used it!)

      • It is the most commonly used algaecide in swimming pools as well.
        (Chlorine is a sanitizer…kills bacteria and protozoa.)
        It is also used to spray fruit and vegetable crops in order to control bacteria and fungal pathogens.
        The big issue of course is the concentration.

    • Which concentrations? The irrigation water, the wells, the sediment, the fish, or the tap water?

      • WD, had the same isssue with my old yet beloved Arabian mare. Patchy coat, and our vet said was selenium minerals deficient. Supplements did not work. She went hooves up (literally, just before a New Year based on snow on her carcass just after a litle 6 inch snow) not 4 months later. Now, that was a very, very tough holiday season.

    • Agree. If mostly nano precipitate is iron pyrite, no big problem. Just an ugly PR problem. Been there, done that, twice! That the provisional heavy metal concentrations were not released (upthread) is NOT a good sign. Been there, done that…also. NOT good.

      • Of course, as has been pointed out, there are some of these which are not benign, such as selenium and especially cadmium.
        (Although there is some selenium in those multivitamins they market for aging hipsters…it is really a tiny amount.)

      • A little selenium is good for plants and animals. I feed selenium to my livestock as the western prairie soils are selenium “deficient”. However, feed too much and you have selenium toxicity. Some people inject selenium into their animals to control the dose.

    • set up a processing plant and recycle all those metals, new industry for the area, might even make some money, the local economy might improve, perhaps there is some gold in that water now, get the pans out, a new gold rush, wait for me when is the next plane to Denver……..

      • Concentrations are likely too low to be practical.
        I have had the same thought in the past regarding phosphate and nitrate pollution which causes eutrophication once it reaches a lake or the ocean…why not just use it for irrigation and thus fertilizer?
        The issue is the concentration and hence the volume of water to be treated. There is a range which is not commercially practical, but still too high to flush into rivers and streams.
        If it was that easy, we would not need mines.

      • Aluminium.
        We’ve had ‘Daily Mail’ scares/articles [ in the UK] claiming
        Aluminium pans => Alzheimer’s (or some form of senile dementia)
        Some years ago.
        I think the statistical correlation was about 0.3 . . . .

  30. Looking forward to seeing their TRI (Toxic Release Inventory) report. “Toxic” in that context has nothing to do with concentrations. When it comes to TRI releases, heavy metals are toxic. Period. The only question is whether reporting thresholds were exceeded.

    • Here’s a start for the dollar effect on the local economys:
      “When — when can we be open again?” said David Moler, 35, the owner of a river-rafting company who had approached a microphone. “All I hear is a handful of ‘gonna-dos,’ ” he added. “What should I tell my employees?”
      There are many farms which use this water for irrigation…
      “Children study the river. Sweethearts marry on its banks. Its former name, given by Spaniards, is Río de las Ánimas, coincidentally, “River of Souls.”
      On Sunday, State Senator Ellen Roberts, a Republican who lives near the river, cried softly as she considered the pollution, adding that she had dropped her father’s ashes in its depths.”
      “It is not just a scenic destination,” Ms. Roberts said. “It is where people literally raise their children. It is where the farmers and ranchers feed their livestock, which in turn feeds the people. We’re isolated from Denver through the mountains. And we are pretty resourceful people. But if you take away our water supply, we’re left with virtually no way to move forward.”

  31. “The EPA has not only claimed responsibility for the spill, but is claiming responsibility for a slow response as well.”
    Now that really is surprising. But what’s even more surprising is that they didn’t blame climate change for the sudden reduction in availability of clean, fresh water in drought-ridden Western States… at least not yet.

    • And Janet Reno claimed responsibility for Waco.
      It’s not hard to claim responsibility for something when you know there will be no consequences…other than to the victims of the screw up.

  32. All affected residents of the area will now be required to assemble, stand in formation, and chant “THANK YOU SIR MAY I HAVE ANOTHER????” 10 times in succession.

  33. Give them a few days to organize the message, but it will probably end up as a call to ban all mining via new regulations. Actually, we have already done that effectively and we now import the products and never see the methods or effects elsewhere.

  34. They imply man-made “Climate Change” caused the drought in California.
    Now the EPA has polluted some of California’s water supply.
    Hollywood won’t be happy.

    • The EPA will state something along the lines of this is a natural result of man’s industrial activities; in this case. if the mine had never been dug to extract the gold, the polluted water would not have been there for the hapless, but well-meaning souls at the EPA to flush down the Colorado river system. Think of the children.

      • We already have had some here, if those nasty miners hadn’t violated Gaia by digging all those holes into her, none of this would have ever happened.

    • Badoit – in my opinion – if superior.
      Especially the red bottles ‘hyper-petillant’.
      Extra sparkling.

      • IS superior. (Of course!)
        Not drinking Badoit tonight!
        Auto, with apologies for incompetent proof-reading.

  35. If you ever see an EPA employee sitting aboard a Caterpillar tractor, run for your life! No telling what he might do. Goofy creatures! Having dealt with them on several occasions, I wouldn’t trust one of ’em with my car keys. On second thought, my car keys would never come up. If five of them arrive at your construction site, they’ll be driving five rental cars. No need to borrow yours for that traditional trip to the local topless bar (where ‘gubment credit cards are always welcomed).

  36. Just skimming through the story and comments I didn’t see this, but, on the local Fox news tonight it was reported that the current estimate of the spill is three time more than originally reported.

  37. My computer frequently goes back to the advertisement as I attempt to scroll down to subsequent comments. Any thing I need to do to stop that?.

    • If you are using IE, click on tools and turn on ActiveXFiltering. You will need to turn it off to watch flash videos, but it will fix problems with this site.
      But then donate, as you are cutting off advertising which supports our host.

  38. They need to prosecute the head of the EPA for lying about the extent of the spill as they tried to do to the BP ceo

  39. In March I scheduled a vacation for Durango/ Silverton in late September and early October. The Durango Tourism Board told me today that I should not cancel my vacation and that the river is clear since last Saturday. I think they are blowing smoke (or is it yellow water) at me since they State of Emergency was set up yesterday (Sunday). I am thinking of canceling and vacationing elsewhere.

  40. I can’t believe this administration chumming for votes in Colorado by having his minions dye the Animas river Broncos orange. You can’t get politics out of everything this administration touches. Any environmental groups want to step up and take a principled stand or are they afraid of getting their grant money cut off or loose their privileges to write the next onerous, unconstitutional regulation.

    • Yeah, and the EPA guy even said “shit happens” in the business. Boy a mining company has no recourse to that rejoinder.

  41. This is heart breaking. On so many levels this will become one of those events that will teach us as well as try our ingenuity to deal with the reality and find solutions to the problem. I was coincidentally in my local fly shop here in Colorado and the devastating news that this is going to make it to the Jan Juan is just so sad. I recall the pesticide spill on the upper Sacramento that killed everything in it’s path. The only thing I am not seeing that gives me some hope is the lack of huge drifts of dead fish. Dare I hope that this is not as toxic as some mine leaching. I can recall some mine water in West Virginia that literally killed the streams and they remained dead permanently. In other cases I have seen yellowish precipitate that seemed to have little effect except make everything ugly. So many people’s lives will be changed by this. I only hope it isn’t permanent. And of course we should all recall the most frightening words in the English, and probably several others, language. ” Hello, I am from the government and I’m here to help.”

    • Over large areas of the Northern Territory of Australia, where there are pronounced wet and dry seasons, the first heavy rain can flush minerals that accumulated in shrinking waterholes the dry, to places where fish can then go for the first time in months. No mines for miles around, just natural rain water is involved.It is common to see dead fish strewn on the flood plain after the first big storm of the season. Last I heard, it was aluminium that did the poisoning, one way or another.
      In Science, it is usually a good idea to get to know the natural system before you attribute blame to a catastrophe that might be a natural part of the living cycle and nought to do with the puny Hand of Man.

  42. One of the comments from a long time resident in the area with knowledge on the local mines made some statements on the situation on another blog.
    There are many mines closely related in the area with one extended under a upland lake and some connecting with each other. The small lake broke through and flooded some lower mine that was first plugged. It filled and ground seepage got into others requiring others to be plugged. Eventually filling them all and oxidation of the fill period causing the orange yellow soup over time. Whole the head supervisor was away a junior decided it was time to jut a pipe in to take test samples. he took a few scoops to shorten a pipe push and saw wet seeping soil. Then wet his pants.

  43. I visited Durango in 1989 and still retain fond memories of my visit. Interesting that a long history of mining in the area has had less impact on the town than the EPA.

  44. My guess is in a few years the scientific reports will report that the Animas River ecosystem was much more resilient to the acidic toxic pulse than they imagined. And that detection of the heavy metal plume fell to background levels in Lake Powell by 2016 as the input of El Nino monsoon rains continued to flush the rivers and creeks feeding the Colorado River.

    • Lake Powell currently hold 13 Million acre feet of water (late July 2015 readings). That is 4.2 Trillion acre-feet of water. The Animas River toxic pulse will eventually deliver 3-4 Million gallons of concentrated polluted (toxic?) plume to Lake Powell as it jons the Colorado River system.
      Do the math: 4.2E12 / 4/E6 = a million-fold dillution. That’s a rounding error on the discharge of heavy meal pollutant levels (measured in ppm) from Lake Powell’s Glen Canyon Dam as it heads downstream to the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead.

      • Agreed Joel. This is an opportunity to once again be reminded and learn about the resilience of Mother Nature. We should stay tuned but won’t as once the reality that this may not be as devastatingly and permanently bad as we feared (hoped?) sets in, the greenies will become agitated to distraction by the next potential disaster. Certainly no style points deserved by EPA and I’m all about kicking them while they’re down, but I doubt very much the Animas River stays dead for long.

    • Your dimensional analysis really helps put this EPA disaster into perspective. It’s truly terrible. Thanks.Joel.

  45. “Yes, it was obviously deliberate. If a retired geologist could predict exactly what would happen, then the EPA had to know, too.”
    Nah, geologists have been ignored for eternity. We are used to it. Ask one about this “global warming” thing.

  46. One of the terrible things about big governments is that they destroy with impunity and on a grand scale.

  47. Unsurprisingly, the local Democrats have been fighting to stop drilling injection wells for use in fracking and wastewater disposal.
    La Plata county was one of the first in the state to enact their own county level regulations to try to tie up new drilling, and the Democrat candidate for the local board wanted to be able to enact a blanket ban on fracking and wastewater disposal.

  48. For decades, colleagues have tossed around the best way to plug an underground mine entrance, especially one that goes straight down vertical.
    Over periods of centuries, it is possible that there is no way. There is an associated problem of marking the site so that in future centuries people will know that there is a deep, concealed hole in the ground.
    Contributions welcomed for novel ideas to plug and mark old mines.

    • How about drilling an injection well for waste water disposal, on site, in the shaft, so that the seep has a way to drain off harmlessly?

      • EPA botched it, that’s the point here. EPA doesn’t give a d*m to get things on track again.

      • It’s a tunnel that was closed at the entrance from collapse (common situation) and they opened it up with a backhoe and also tore into a retaining wall that held back a lake of acid water. Mine tunnel or not, there would still be an acidic water seep there and with heavy metals in solution. EPA just concentrated the seep into an assault on the rivers instead of the slow discharge that the whole region has from this huge hydrothermally altered and mineralized volcanic complex.

    • Contributions welcomed for novel ideas to plug and mark old mines.

      Wow, that’s a tough one. Especially is cost is an issue, which it always is.
      I’ve wondered whether acid-resistant polymer concrete could be adapted to use in mines.

      • Call a mining engineer, if they have not all left the country to pursue careers elsewhere and where the same commodities come from today.

      • The way I understand it the acid is a byproduct of the water sitting in the hole, breaking down iron pyrite over time. If they have proper drainage the acid never gets a chance to leach out of the rock.

  49. I live a 100 kms from a similar mine. Down stream is a regional city. Newspaper reports on Government discussions suggest the city would just be totally evacuated. 250,000 people would simply have to move. I cannot believe those idiots in kayaks in the photo. That sludge may kill them on skin exposure.

  50. Just where is the “foot on the throat”, the outrage, the demands for money and compensation?

  51. Is the EPA going to pay 20 billion in compensation, restore the river (s) and riverbanks and pay punitive damages. Is it going to give free counseling to those effected?

  52. That fine would be at least $35,000 per day if a citizen or small company had an accident like that. The cost in this case is about $35,000 per minute.

  53. The EPA used to do good work – clearing up real air and water pollution. However, just like any other bureaucracy it wants to grow despite already meeting its mission. So that’s when farmer’s ponds become “wetlands” and CO2 becomes a pollutant to justify their growth. And the paperwork for any construction project becomes onerous as well protect the darling little fishes that can’t evolve to meet the new environment.

  54. Isn’t there even one US attorney prepared to organise a class action – “The People v EPA” – to sue the EPA for hundreds of millions of dollars … a token $1,000 for environmental damage and the remaining hundreds of millions as punitive damages for gross negligence?

  55. If this were a company they would be headed for bankruptcy and the company officers would be headed for jail.

  56. I’ll ask it again. What notice of workplan was given to local governments and the public prior to this EPA project?

  57. Can’t help myself but this brings to mind a joke that was told in school yards close to sixty years ago. Sit back it takes awhile to tell a joke from simple times when most kids were familiar with rural life.
    three kids want to enter their pig at the County Fair but no matter how much they feed it, the darn pig just doesn’t gain weight. So one afternoon they come up with the bright idea that, clearly if the pig couldn’t eliminate all that food as dung he’d have to gain weight. They have no problem coming up with a cork…Ah but who is going to put the cork in? Well Nobody wants to do THAT but finally one of the kids hits on the idea that his uncle has a pet monkey. They could train the monkey to the task and none of them would have to get their hands dirty.
    Sure enough the monkey takes right to the training and they get the job accomplished.
    The pig gains tremendous weight having no way to eliminate waste and wins first place at the County Fair!
    Wellll, the boys figure that pig might really like to take a crap and as usual nobody wants to take the cork out so another round of training for the monkey. The day comes when its time to send in the monkey and he does his job just as he’s been taught to but when he pulls the plug its like there’s an explosion of crap and the boys are blown down. They are rescued and as adults are trying to determine what has gone on they interview the first two boys and hear that all they saw was tons and tons of crap filling the sky before they blacked out. The third kid remembers more:
    “That poor monkey tryin’ to put the cork back in”
    That EPA backhoe operator probably knows how the monkey felt!

  58. It is a little ironic that for each federal agency participating in the round robin of CAGW climate change scare media blitz there is another round robin of agency service blunders and failed policy over reach, i.e. EPA, VA, IRS, State Dept., etc. The citizens and taxpayers lose in both round robins.

  59. Ok. I still don’t get it. ferd berple is absolutely correct. Why is the regulator doing remediation? They are clearly in a conflict of interest. Their only participations should be review, permitting and compliance.
    The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in their former incarnation as the Atomic Energy Control Board used to do legacy case remediation on behalf of the government, especially whenever there was a court order for relief, but this was stopped in the early 80s upon intervener court action. Of course this can’t happen in this case because all the large interveners are already in a RICO relationship with the EPA.
    State and local authorities, the Animus River Stakeholder’s Group and the Navajo Nation, who are insisting they will reclaim every penny of loss from the EPA for this incident, should not expect any significant support from any of the big green organizations here.

    • Why is the regulator doing remediation?
      Because sabotage.
      Their only participations should be review, permitting and compliance.
      Not enough room for graft doing it the right way.

  60. I remember as a youngster in the 1960’s getting my hands on some very old encyclopedias from the early 1930’s. They described the rise and explosive growth of the chemical industry and toxic waste disposal. It was explained that the waste was being buried in containers underground, that they couldn’t be relied upon to not leak in 100 years time, and the ridiculous GDP growth required meantime in order to practically clean up the mess. They ended by stating that these would be among the exciting challenges faced by future generations.

  61. There is a reason mines get properly capped and sealed. Any mine engineer with more experience than a college degree would have cautioned against this. Root cause and effect goes along way…

    • Had EPA retained a competent mining engineer, she’d have at least demanded that the surface elevation of the contained minewater be determined, before their mindless weakening of the earth plug many feet below. But the EPA prefers social justice warriors to vulgar engineers, and hydraulic pressure is beyond the comprehension of a social justice warrior in search of capitalist notches on the handle of his legal pistol.

  62. Do exactly what the EPA does to regular citizens: Send armed agents to the EPA and arrest McCarthy.
    Oh, wait, I forgot… The government grants itself immunity from liability and prosecution when it does the same thing it holds you liable and puts you in jail for doing.
    It’s time to change laws and put governmental criminals behind bars.

  63. I picked up a can of Coor’s today and the GOVERNMENT WARNING seemed to be somewhat reworded: (1) According to the surgeon general, women should drink alcoholic beverages if no alternative to the freshwater from the Animas River is available, because of the risks of birth defects from the river water. (2) Consumption of Animas River water in preference to beer impairs your ability to drive a car or anything at all, and is guaranteed to cause health problems.

  64. It’s fascinating to watch Gina McCarthy respond to this agency crisis. It has a lot of parallels to her testimony in Congress on climate change. She knows a great deal about her agency but “knows very little about what went on in that mine” and nothing about climate science model prediction fail underlying the entire global carbon policy campaigns of the IPCC and EPA. Since when did this leadership style and message management come to the fore in Washington? It is clearly taught and not unique to one agency head. It’s just that the OPM head was not very good at it, and got fired for poor method acting.

  65. This mine has been festering for years, yet the EPA has chosen to spend money on things that will expand its power and control over more and more part of citizen’s lives rather than to promptly attend to cleaning up things that need cleaning up. The EPA has become yet another mechanism to impose tyranny. Its leaders should be fired, and its budget must be cut, way back. Above all, it needs to focus on what is important. Sadly, I can only expect more of the same. The nature of the government beast never changes.

  66. The EPA has taken a “California Dreamin'” approach to regulations. “Lead Free” brass is an example.
    (I think the (greek letter phi)g/l in the article stands for parts per trillion of lead that leaches from regular brass fittings after several hours. Just dump the first cup of water and you won’t even have that.)
    But they Imagine how harmful the lead would be if our children teethed on brass fittings so brass fittings must be lead free.
    What are they going to say to dismiss the threat of lead, not mention the rest of the stuff they released?
    They’ll only reach LA in parts per trillion?

  67. DENVER — Unlike BP, which was fined $5.5 billion for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, the EPA will pay nothing in fines for unleashing the Animas River spill.
    “Sovereign immunity. The government doesn’t fine itself,” said Thomas L. Sansonetti, former assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s division of environment and natural resources.
    New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and other lawmakers have called on the EPA to hold itself to the same standards as it would a private company in the aftermath of Wednesday’s accident, in which an EPA-led crew uncorked a 3 million-gallon spill of orange wastewater from the abandoned Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado.
    However, “The EPA does not fine itself the way that you would fine an outside company like BP,” said Mr. Sansonetti, who served from 2001 to 2005 under President George W. Bush.
    What the EPA can be expected to cover is the cost of the cleanup and compensation for the damage caused, funding that would have to be appropriated by Congress, meaning that the taxpayers will foot the bill.
    “That’s going to have to be appropriated because that sort of thing is not included in the EPA’s budget,” said Mr. Sansonetti, now a Denver attorney.
    As for compensation, he said, “It’s similar to the BP situation because you’ve got rafting companies that couldn’t raft, you’ve got kayakers that couldn’t kayak, you’ve got ranchers that didn’t want spoiled water being drunk by their cows.”
    So far there have been no estimates as to the cost of the disaster. The orange plume borne by the Animas River has since spread to New Mexico via the San Juan River and is now heading to Utah.
    Copyright © 2015 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

  68. I think the appropriate remedy would be for congress to fine the EPA an amount equal to what the EPA would fine a private company and do it by removing that amount from their next budget. They should also let the EPA know right now that is what they should expect for their next appropriation. It couldn’t send a clearer message.

  69. 19 people died in a landslide from an unstable road/ embankment in Australia within a national park at a ski resort, and supervision of the road was at the time by the national parks service; after the landslide the management of roads in national parks was quietly handed over to the roads authority, as it was noted that they didn’t have either the inclination or the expertise to maintain the roads.

  70. EPA FY 2016 Budget (October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016)
    For the EPA, the The President’s 2016 proposed budget is $8.6 billion.
    I think a $5 billion fine seem appropriate. It would leave the EPA with $3.6 billion. It would also get rid of the following proposed increases. I especially like #2 thru #4 and wonder how they plan to implement #5.
    Proposed Funding Level Increases Above FY 2015 Enacted Budget
    + $120 million Goal 1: To protect and improve air quality for all Americans and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and develop adaptation strategies to address climate change.
    + $70 million Goal 2: To protect and restore America’s waters to ensure that drinking water is safe and sustainably managed and that aquatic ecosystems sustain fish, plants, wildlife, and other biota, as well as economic, recreational, and subsistence activities.
    + $178 million Goal 3: To clean up communities, advance sustainable development, and protect disproportionately impacted low-income and minority communities from the releases of harmful substances.
    + $47 million Goal 4: To ensure the safety of chemicals in our environment, reduce the risk, and prevent pollution at the source.
    + $66 million Goal 5: To protect human health and the environment through vigorous and targeted civil and criminal enforcement and use Next Generation Compliance strategies and tools to improve compliance with environmental laws.

    • I suggest you mil this recommendation directly to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McCOnnell and House Speaker John Boehner. They can be accessed through the internet

  71. Malicious intent..who were the MIGRANT WORKERS OPERATING HEAVY EQUIPTMENT DIGGING THE DAM ITSELF? Purposely creating a breach. Go look at pics.
    Who is EPA Spokeswoman Lisa Vanderpool married to? It wouldn’t be Dr. Robert Vanderpool would it? Who heads up research on EFFECT OF TOXINS ON HUMANS..AT THE EPA? AND THAT OVERSEES REPUBLIC SERVICES? That’s right, the same people in charge of THE WEST LAKE RADIOACTIVE LANDFILL FIRE IN ST. LOUIS. And other atrocities. Oh they tried to block an interesting recent obituary on Lisa Vanderpools mother in Arkansas. And the addresses in San Francisco, San Bernadino..also why does she haves 4 aliases? Her father worked for..wait for it..the mining industry at a high level. And the nuke industry..Hanford. The same Hanford thats killing everything including the Colorado river.

  72. This is a huge disaster which must have great consequences to EPA itself.
    What has to be done in the first place is give FACTS and make people watchful to all effects of it.
    Then investigate thoroughly
    – how this “accident” could happen
    – and why the response of EPA was so slow.
    Of course, EPA bears a tremendous responsiblity. As long as the investigation is in course, EPA has to stop all new initiatives.
    The situation is harrowing.
    We read on the EPA website:
    – EPA protects our health, environment and economy.
    – Although we can do a lot to clean up pollution after it’s in the environment, preventing pollution in the first place is even better.
    – EPA uses sound science to help protect our health and environment from toxic chemicals.
    However, the FACTS are:
    EPA accidentally breaches the debris dam in Gold King Mine. The Animas River is contaminated by EPA spill of 3 million gallons of mine waste.
    We read on the EPA website:
    – The goal of EPA’s ecosystems research is to provide scientific leadership and knowledge for assessing, improving, and restoring the integrity of ecosystems
    – EPA conducts research to protect human health and the environment.
    – EPA uses sound science to help protect our health and environment from toxic chemicals.
    However, the FACTS are (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/10/us/animas-river-toxic-spill-colorado/index.html):
    – One of the arsenic levels in the Animas river in the Durango area peaked 800 times the EPA acceptable level. According to the EPA’s own data on Thursday, an arsenic sample tested still 26 times the acceptable level.
    – Lead peaked at 12,000 times the EPA acceptable level! According to EPA, a lead sample was more than 300 times higher than the EPA acceptable level on Thursday.
    – Cadmium samples were 33 times the EPA accepable level.
    – Mercury: 10 times the EPA acceptable level.
    Exposure to high levels of these metals can cause an array of health problems from cancer to kidney disease to developmental problems in children.
    The Animas River is a source for drinking water and for irrigation.
    Meanwhile, on the EPA website, slogans appear such as: “Global action on climate change will result in substantial economic, health and environmental benefits to the United States.” Is this statement as unreliable as the other statements on the website?

    • A lot of what you say doesnt make sense. The river was already contaminated from mine runoff AND naturally occurring mineral leaching.
      What was the rivers baseline contamination.?

  73. Send Gina McCarthy on a tour of the Navajo Nation, without guards——and dress her up like Gen. Custer.

  74. Answering the concerns and questions of the Navajos in a timely manner is about as opposite as you can get from an over reach agency that is all about form fitting science to meet advocacy goals and imposing new regulations.

  75. The EPA says now that the spill was far faster, and far larger than they initially assumed.
    Nowhere have I seen any reference to the EPA having retained a competent mining engineer before its mindless weakening by backhoe of the earth fill that restrained the minewater. Such individuals are acutely conscious of hydraulic pressure, and would have insisted on determining the surface elevation of that underground water body before turning the machinery loose to peck around – and ultimately release the flood. There’s no excuse for the EPA’s project manager, who’s supposed to be responsible for determining initial conditions BEFORE taking actions. He would certainly included that ‘failure to determine’ in an indictment of any private enterprise for the spill, and deserves a good stiff indictment herself on the same principle.

  76. Get army corp of engineers in there working feveresly with Sixers to divert the river before it gets to lake Meade to prevent. Lake Meade from being polluted. EPA lady lied through her teeth unless she’s a total moron.

  77. This is U.S. federal agency incompetence on display to the world. These agencies cost 10x more than comparable agencies in other countries and end up doing fraud science form fitting and backhoe engineering work. But their true talents are in play now in damage control techniques and getting Hickenlooper to drink from the river.

  78. News flash: The assigned supervising EPA staff were all out working for the CIA at the time and could not be reached for comment.

  79. I think the best description of government employees was in “Dark Rivers of the Heart” by Dean Koontz. Roy Murro says it best for the government workers, “anything done with compassion can’t be judged as wrong.”

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