At first, it was reported that they accidentally spilled one million gallons of toxic waste into the Animas River in Colorado. Now, it’s being reported that three times that amount was actually spilled. And the mustard-yellow pollution is flowing into New Mexico and Utah as well. Reuters reported:
A team of U.S. regulators probing contamination at a Colorado gold mine accidentally released [three] million gallons of orange-hued waste water containing sediment and metals into a local river system, the Environmental Protection Agency said on Thursday.
The waste water that had been held behind a barrier near the abandoned Gold King Mine spilled on Wednesday into Cement Creek, which flows into the Animas River in San Juan County, EPA spokesman Rich Mylott said.
The city of Durango, Colorado – downstream from Silverton where the spill happened – and La Plata County have both declared states of emergency following the spill.
Spills like this happen. Accidents happen. I’m not expecting the EPA to be perfect in everything they do. But what do they do when a private company spills toxic waste into a body of water, whether it was an accident or not? All the EPA and federal prosecutors care about at that point are fines and prison time. And that’s not to mention all the ensuing lawsuits filed by residents who may or may not have been affected by the toxic waste.
The BP oil spill that happened five years ago – that’s been described as the largest accidental oil spill – ended up costing the corporation $42.2 billion, which didn’t include over $18 billion in federal fines. There were also manslaughter and obstruction of justice charges against certain BP personnel.
But when the EPA does something like that, nothing happens. What if people get sick from the contaminated water? What if people die? Will those affected be able to sue the EPA and receive a settlement check out of it? What kind of fine will the EPA have to pay, and how about criminal negligent charges? Accidents often happen because the proper protocols weren’t followed. Things get overlooked. Is there going to be an investigation into this accidental spill to find out if the EPA officials were being careless and reckless like BP?
I’m sure there will be an internal investigation at the EPA, and they’ll find that they didn’t do anything wrong. They’ll find that all protocols were followed absolutely perfectly, and that the only reason the accident happened was that the old, abandoned mine had numerous EPA violations. The town of Silverton will be fined by the EPA, and residents will be forced to pay out hundreds of millions in fines. And the mayor will get a few years in jail and 40 hours of community service.