Though piece by Stephen Heins


To me, the real issues center around the aftermath of the spill and the EPA’s disaster plan execution. No amount of PR can hide how long it took for them in Washington DC and Gina McCarthy to even publicly acknowledge the spill: 6 days and only after White House’s environmental press conference. At the bottom, I have included my piece written after the Congressional Hearing in September, 2015

EPA Watchdog Opens a Criminal Probe Into 2015 Colorado Spill Agency’s Inspector General Looks into Incident that Turned Animas River mustard yellow

1 August 2016 | By Jim Carlton, The Wall Street Journal

BiographyJim Carlton

Jim.Carlton@wsj.comThe Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general has opened a criminal investigation into last summer’s massive mine-waste spill in Colorado’s Animas River, which was caused after one of its contracting firms accidentally triggered the release.Some lawmakers had accused the agency of not moving to hold itself accountable in the Aug. 5, 2015, spill at the Gold King Mine of three million gallons of toxic sludge into the river, which eventually empties into the Colorado River.“There’s no question as to the EPA’s culpability for this spill, and this criminal investigation is critical to ensuring justice is served for all those impacted by this terrible disaster,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona said in a statement with Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, Republicans who had asked for a criminal investigation into the spill.In all, the agency has dedicated more than $29 million to help safeguard the public and environment and is coordinating with the Justice Department on handling of various property damage and personal injury claims, said Mathy Stanislaus, an assistant EPA administrator, to congressional leaders in a status update Monday.The office had previously announced a review of the cause of the spill and the EPA’s response. Among other things, the inspector general has said it would look into the expertise of EPA employees and contractors, who were carrying out excavation work at the abandoned gold mine when the spill was triggered that unleashed the waste. Past criminal probes by the EPA’s inspector general have resulted in fines and imprisonment.Write to Jim Carlton

  • The spill has prompted other legal actions in recent months, including a still-pending suit filed in federal court against the EPA by New Mexico over what state officials there call lingering contamination issues impacting its residents.
  • A spokesman for the inspector general’s office also declined to comment because of the investigation, but said the office was working with the Justice Department.
  • A spokeswoman for the EPA, which has taken responsibility for the spill, said the agency can’t comment on a pending investigation.
  • The sludge turned the Animas mustard yellow for days, forcing thousands of river users to turn to alternate water supplies, as federal officials found high levels of toxicity from lead and arsenic. EPA officials eventually cleared the water for drinking and recreation, but warned that chemicals in the riverbed could be stirred up again and that a full cleanup could take years.
  • On Monday, Republican lawmakers who had called for the criminal inquiry praised the investigation, which was disclosed Friday by the agency’s independent watchdog arm.
  • Aug. 1, 2016 7:39 p.m. ET


See Do the Colorado Toxic Spills Foretell Nightmares for the EPA?