The EPA waited several hours before reporting the Gold King Mine spill to the National Spill Response Center, declined to name themselves as the responsible party, and omitted critical details such as the toxins that were released and any initial danger posed to drinking water.
When this type of incident occurs, federal law requires that the organization responsible notify the spill center that is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard.
However, the incident report on the Animas River spill states that “the responsible organization type” is “unknown,” and the box to fill in the name of the “responsible company” was left blank.
“Caller is reporting a release of mine water from an under ground mine,” the incident report said. “Caller also stated that anyone that is using the water for irrigation purposes should not use the water, personnel are on site at the mine, the county and local police have been mobilized.”
No warning of any impact to drinking water, and absolutely no mention of the EPA or that they were even on the premises.
We suspect that if The Peak hadn’t busted the EPA in the first place for causing the massive spill, they might have gotten off the hook completely.
Here are some other interesting questions on the forms and the non-answers from the anonymous caller reporting the spill. For those of you following along from the media, here’s the link to the 2015 report, and the SEQNOS number is 1124824.
Federal agency notified? That answer box is blank.
State agency notified? “State, local police, county.”
Incident cause? “Other.”
Water supply contaminated? Unknown.
Name of material spilled? “Mine water.”
Nadda mention of the arsenic, lead, cadmium, iron, copper or manganese that poured forth within the “mine water.”
Amount of material? “0.”
Did it reach the water? Yes.
What color is it? Answer box left blank.
Amount in waterway? “0.”
Any damage? No.
Waterways closed? No.
Roads closed? No.
Media interest? “Unknown.”
Of course there was zero media interest when the spill was reported, because they didn’t bother to tell us until much later.
The EPA said in its initial press release the spill occurred at 10:30 a.m., but told the National Spill Response Center it didn’t happen until 11:30 a.m. However, it wasn’t even reported to the center until 2:27 p.m.
One of the chief complaints from officials in Colorado and New Mexico is how long it took the EPA to inform them about the spill. In a letter this week to the EPA, U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton said it took longer than 24 hours to alert local agencies the spill had occurred.
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez says she wasn’t even notified about the spill until a full day after the incident, and even then she didn’t hear about it from the EPA – they were notified by an official from the Southern Ute Tribe.
When EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy finally visited Colorado nearly a week after the spill, she claimed the agency was taking full responsibility for the mess. But, it sure doesn’t look like that was their original intention.