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. 

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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 ChaffetzCongress's latest hacking investigation should model its most recent Fox News Audio expands stable of podcasts by adding five new shows The myth of the conservative bestseller 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 McCarthyGina McCarthyOvernight Energy & Environment — White House announces new climate office New White House office to develop climate change policies Kerry: Climate summit 'bigger, more engaged, more urgent' than in past 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 InhofeOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Pentagon vows more airstrike transparency Senate GOP threatens to block defense bill    Outcry grows over Russian missile test that hit satellite 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 BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah) said last week.