Photo from sfreporter.com
Thanks to the infamous Friday night document dump, the minor, little detail of the Environmental Protection Agency having known of the potential old gold mine contaminated water plug blowout that a small team of their people caused August 5 on the Animas River is starting to take on the hue of canary yellow. Michael Biesecker of the Associated Press broke the story:
Among the documents is a June 2014 work order for a planned cleanup that noted that the old mine had not been accessible since 1995, when the entrance partially collapsed. The plan appears to have been produced by Environmental Restoration, a private contractor working for EPA.
“This condition has likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse,” the report says. “ln addition, other collapses within the workings may have occurred creating additional water impounding conditions. 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.”
Well, then, so the EPA knew they were playing with fire, or mercury, lead, arsenic and cadmium as the case may be, and have known that for quite some time. This particular document dump evades the time surrounding the actual “accident” at the mine, and is heavily redacted. Among the information blacked out is a safety plan on how to deal with the mine from 2013. That more or less means that to get any meaningful data about what the EPA knew and when they knew it, a court order is most likely going to be needed.
In the meantime, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado are dealing with the aftereffects of the spill including all those heavy metals making their way downstream, even if they are settling at the bottom of the river beds or lacing the banks along the higher water lines. (That means it’s all still there and will be stirred up again with heavy rain and flooding.) All three states and local entities have been sharply critical of the EPA’s lack of communication following the plug blowout. This lack of information sharing is feeding the theory that the EPA was looking for a way to declare the Animas River a Superfund site for at least 25 years.
The documents released last evening are the first indication from the EPA that their officials were well aware that the possibility of the plug blowout was real. What is most interesting, is that they blocked out the price paid to the contractors on the project, so at this point, we Americans don’t know how much federal tax dollars have been spent on making this disaster happen.