EPA inspector general begins investigation into mine spill

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said Monday it will begin investigation the Aug. 5 incident that sent 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into Colorado’s Animas River. 

In a memo to EPA officials, Assistant Inspector General Carolyn Copper said her office would request documents and interview staffers at both the EPA’s Washington headquarters and its regional offices during the investigation. 


The focus, she said, will be the “cause of, and the EPA’s response to,” the spill at the shuttered Gold King Mine in Silverton, Colo.

“Due to the scope of the issues involved, the OIG’s Office of Program Evaluation, Office of Audit and Office of Investigations will work collaboratively to conduct parts of this review,” Copper wrote in a memo to the regional administrator covering the Colorado area and an official in the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

“Your offices may receive joint OIG office requests for meetings and information, as well as individual OIG office requests for meetings and information.“

The inspector general investigation comes after a call from Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzLawmakers contemplate a tough political sell: Raising their pay Top Utah paper knocks Chaffetz as he mulls run for governor: ‘His political career should be over’ Boehner working on memoir: report MORE (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Overnight Committee, who has said his panel would conduct its own investigation into the spill. 

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Overnight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule MORE said last week that the agency was planning both an internal and external review of the incident. An OIG spokesman told The Hill last week that the office had launched a probe, but he didn’t immediately have details on its scope.

A team of EPA contractors was inspecting the Gold King Mine on Aug. 5 when they inadvertently sent a flood of contaminated chemicals, including lead, arsenic and other heavy metals, into the Animas River.

The incident is likely to draw attention from more than just the inspector general and the oversight panel. 

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a hearing on the incident when Congress returns, a spokeswoman for committee chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's Morning Report - Dems look to rebuild 'blue wall' Funding caps, border wall set stage for defense budget battle Trump's claims of defeating ISIS roil Congress MORE (R-Okla.) said last week, and the House is likely to follow suit.

“In the coming weeks and months, the committee will be conducting extensive oversight over the causes and the short-term and long-term effects of this serious situation,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopOvernight Energy: McConnell tees up vote on Green New Deal | Centrist Dems pitch alternative to plan | House Republican likens Green New Deal to genocide | Coca-Cola reveals it uses 3M tons of plastic every year House GOP lawmaker says Green New Deal is like genocide Overnight Energy: Solar installations dropped in 2018 | UN report says rising Arctic temperatures 'locked in' | Fiat Chrysler to recall 850K vehicles MORE (R-Utah) said last week.