Colorado Animas River Sludge – An EPA Budget in Perpetuity

I can not believe what I am hearing on the media about the Colorado Orange sludge. The EPA would have us believe that everything is fine, the water has returned to contaminated levels pre-sludge and that if we want it cleaned up, because there is no more superfund money, Colorado taxpayers will have to ante up and foot the bill!

To add to the fray, Governor Hickenlooper drank a hefty glass of iodine treated water from the river and touted that everything was ‘normal’… to your health! Sante!  “C’mon little kiddies, drink up!”

Really! Even the EPA thought that was incredibly irresponsible. Who are these people?

This mine was closed over 100 years ago and now we as Colorado taxpayers are going to ante up to clean up the mess the mine made while the owners of the mine have no responsibility and the EPA claims they have no money? What happened to the mine? The company, Premier Cobalt Central Mines Company out of Canada went into receivorship in 1911, so I guess that about let’s them off the hook. But the EPA is responsible for unplugging the proverbial dyke, so shouldn’t they be responsible to clean it up?

Legally, if it hadn’t been the EPA running over the plug, if it had been a private company, who would be responsible then?

In the meantime, the EPA announces it may take ‘years’ to evaluate the harm to human, animal, aquatic, bird and environmental damage.  Lots of reports…

Apparently, the EPA says it’s Superfund is broke, they have no more money and therefore actual cleanup isn’t possible. Besides, after conducting a typical five to ten year study, and another ten years of creating government reports on the findings, chances are the public will have long forgotten and the cleanup will simply fade into the sunset.  Ta-Ta~

But wait, it gets better! Who plugged the mine in the first place? The EPA. They plugged the mine in 2014 with the hopes of building a ‘large concrete bulkhead’ in 2015. In other words, the plug was a temporary fix. Engineers knew that the plug would eventually explode with the pressure of water that was building inside. Hence they needed approval for ‘special funding’ to build a bulkhead at a cost of upwards of $1.7 million.

Construction for the bulkhead was supposed to commence July 2015 with a completion date of September 2015. Before the spill the EPA stated, “there are NO fish in the Animas River below Cement Creek for approximately two miles and observed precipitous declines in fish populations as far as 20 miles downstream.” (Drink up Hickenlooper).  The river was already toxic, it just didn’t turn orange. Construction on the bulkhead was underway when the sub-contractor decided to test water levels and blockage at the Gold King Mine. Oops – and it’s history from there.

The mine has been undergoing ‘a form of cleanup‘ for years, but it’s not really working, it’s actually an ongoing cleanup operation of perpetuity. So far it has cost $100 million and the river still couldn’t sustain fish upstream. You see, the solution isn’t really a solution at all, it is another type of plug, a water treatment facility that continues to churn and work to clean the constant flow of pollution and heavy metals. And that’s the rub for the residents. An expensive band-aide.

Meanwhile, the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, has stopped all work on all mines across the country, has refused to visit the site claiming the 55 mile drive is ‘too far’, and has stated that the sludge of the Animas is back to the same polluted levels it was before the spill. But even that doesn’t portray the entire picture.

According to a document released by the EPA September 2014, they claim the Animas River pollution increased dramatically after the EPA installed three bulkheads in the Sunnyside Mine System. The build up of flows at the Red and Bonita Mine, the Mogul Mine and the Gold King Mine increased dramatically after the bulkheads were installed at Sunnyside. This would indicate that the bulkhead solution simply ‘moves’ the buildup somewhere else which they acknowledged in their report of the potential failure of the Red and Bonita bulkhead!

Prior to the sludge, the EPA stated that conditions exist for, “actual or potential exposure to nearby human populations, animals or the food chain from hazardous substances or pollutants or contaminants.” from the mine and that a cost of remediation was expected to be $1,710,000 such cost to be born by the Regional Removal Allowance. Signed David Ostrander, Director.

A regional allowance allows for a statutory limit of $2 million for a cleanup unless a Regional Administrator approves emergency actions up to $6 million… Gina McCarthy is the Regional Administrator. How much Gina?

So what we have is a solution that isn’t a solution at all but a diversion. We have a river that will never be clean of toxins and heavy metals. And we have the EPA, a government organization who earns its annual budget diverting pollutants to new sites, to plug, to divert to new sites – to plug… thereby assuring they will always be awarded the budgets – in perpetuity.

How’s that workin’ for ya?”

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