Politics & Policy

EPA Shrugs after Spilling Millions of Gallons of Toxic Water into a River in the Mountain States

Pollution in the Animas River

Responding to a massive contaminated-water spill caused by the Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado and New Mexico declared states of emergency yesterday, allotting an initial sum of $1.75 million in taxpayer money to the cleanup effort.

Meanwhile, the Navajo Nation has announced plans to sue the agency for “millions — billions of dollars,” president Russell Begaye told the Navajo Times this week. More lawsuits may soon follow as Colorado’s fishing, tourism, and agriculture industries assess the damage caused.

The spill occurred last Wednesday as an EPA cleanup crew attempted a cleanup at the Gold King Mine, abandoned since 1924. The agency initially estimated 1 million gallons of metal-laced water had been released into the Animas River; over the weekend, it revised that number to 3 million gallons.

Though officials are still trying to understand the scope of the damage, as many as 550 gallons of water, according to some estimates, continue to gush per minute, turning the Animas River a mustard yellow.

The EPA’s preliminary tests revealed that the water’s arsenic levels peaked as high as 300 times the normal level near Durango, while lead levels were around 3,500 times higher than usual.

RELATED: The EPA Spills a Million Gallons of Mine Waste Into a Colorado River

The EPA, as well as state-level environmental agencies, are still trying to determine the impact on fish and wildlife. Meanwhile, both farmers and several water utilities have ceased to draw water from the Animas River.

The EPA is drawing heavy criticism for its response to the disaster. Though the water was bound for New Mexico, the agency failed to notify officials there until a day after the spill occurred. Governor Susana Martinez has called that negligence “completely irresponsible.”

“New Mexico deserves better,” New Mexico’s environment secretary said, calling EPA’s response “cavalier and irresponsible.”

#related#Colorado’s U.S. senators have written a critical letter to EPA head Gina McCarthy, outlining how the spill may threaten public health, tourism, agriculture, and other industries.

Meanwhile, regional officials and community groups have also criticized the EPA for providing little information about the environmental disaster.

“For whatever reason, their communications continue to be insufficient,” the executive director of the San Juan Citizens Alliance told the Guardian. “They’re sowing more confusion in the area than they are resolving it.”

EPA’s regional director admitted last week that the agency’s initial response was “not appropriate in that we did not understand the full extent of what we were looking at here.”

Jillian Kay Melchior — Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More
Elections

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More
U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More