Colorado officials are challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) account of the state’s role in the August mine waste spill that the EPA caused.
The EPA has repeatedly said that experts with Colorado’s Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety (DRMS) approved of their plans to start cleaning up the Gold King Mine near Silverton.
But in a September letter to the EPA, Colorado natural resources director Mike King rejected that claim, telling the EPA that “no one at DRMS directed any work at Gold King, nor did any DRMS personnel approve or disapprove any of the work EPA was conducting there,” according to the Denver Post.
The Post obtained the letter in a public records request related to the incident, in which a contractor for the EPA caused 3 million gallons of harmful heavy metal sludge to drain into a tributary of the Animas River, closing it and downstream rivers for days as they turned bright orange.
Colorado’s position challenges the claims from not only the EPA but also the Bureau of Reclamation, which conducted an outside review of the spill. The bureau painted a picture of an even closer collaboration with the state than the EPA initially described.
The reviews found that the EPA underestimated the pressure of the waste water buildup in the mine’s exit tunnel because the agency did not directly measure the pressure before breaching a dam.
The EPA told the Post that it was reviewing Colorado’s letter. The agency said its independent inspector general office received the letter initially, and the rest of the agency only became aware of it this week.