Politics & Policy

The EPA Spills a Million Gallons of Mine Waste into a Colorado River

Animas River in Colorado

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accidentally spilled a million gallons of mine waste into Colorado’s Animas River yesterday. The river’s befouled waters turned a bright yellow, their acidity increasing by 100-fold, as officials warned of risks to fish and cautioned that the contaminated sludge could irritate human skin.

“The water is a nasty color yellow, sort of putrid-looking,” a volunteer with the La Plata County search and rescue team tells National Review by phone. Because the county draws some of its water from the Animas, the city has imposed water rationing, he said. And, he explained, the spill will also have an effect on the county’s tourism industry, which relies heavily on rafting, kayaking, and fishing in the river. “The sheriff decided that because we don’t know what’s in the water, he ordered no one can go in the water,” he said.

The incident occurred as the EPA was doing remediation work at the Gold King Mine, an abandoned site north of Silverton that operated between 1890 and 1920, said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, noting the mine is not under the organization’s control.

Sanderson called the spill “the most significant event” he had seen in his 20-year career. “It’s bad. There’s no question about it. . . . Now comes the matter of trying to fix it. This one, the EPA will undoubtedly perform an investigation and will have some explaining to do,” he said.

When private companies cause such damage, the EPA has the power to bring criminal charges. “In Fiscal Year 2013, EPA’s criminal cases assessed more than $1.5 billion in criminal fines and restitution, and more than $3 billion in court-ordered environmental projects to benefit communities, the largest amounts ever for a single year,” an agency spokesman said last year.

Matt Robbins, spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, says the agency is working with the EPA to monitor the effects of the newly contaminated water on fish. He said a significant amount of water has been tainted, and they’re still unsure what the consequences will be.

The EPA, which had not responded to a request for comment at press time, is already drawing criticism for the mistake.

“First, isn’t the point of EPA to protect the environment?” says Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory affairs for the Institute for Energy Research. He adds that it’s significant that a government agency, as opposed to a private company, was responsible for the spill.

— 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 and the Blankley Fellow at the Steamboat Institute.

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

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