House committee schedules first hearing on mine spill

A House committee has scheduled the first congressional hearing on this month’s toxic waste spill in Colorado. 

The Science, Space and Technology Committee has asked Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy to testify on Sept. 9 about the spill. 

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Chairman Lamar SmithLamar Seeligson SmithDemocratic staffer says Wendy Davis will run for Congress Ex-GOP Rep. Roskam joins lobbying firm Anti-corruption group hits Congress for ignoring K Street, Capitol Hill 'revolving door' MORE (R-Texas) said the EPA “has an obligation to be forthcoming about what went wrong” in Colorado. 

A team of EPA contractors inspecting an abandoned mine inadvertently released 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into Colorado’s Animas River on Aug. 5. The waste eventually spread to the San Juan River in New Mexico.

Water quality has since returned to pre-accident levels, the EPA says, and the rivers have reopened. But the incident has provided fodder for lawmakers and led to calls for congressional inquiries. 

“Weeks after the spill, families and businesses who depend on the Animas River continue to deal with uncertainty and limited information,” Smith said in a statement. 

“As the agency entrusted by the American people to protect the environment and ensure the nation’s waters are clean, the EPA should be held to the highest standard. The Science Committee needs to hear from the EPA about steps it is taking to repair the damage and to prevent this from ever occurring again.”

The House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have both promised their own hearings on the accident. 

The EPA’s inspector general is looking at the spill, and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Reclamation is leading a separate investigation into the accident.