By Marjorie Haun | Watchdog Arena
“Once again the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] has failed to notify the appropriate local officials and agencies of the spill in a timely manner.” These are the words of U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO) of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in response to another toxic spill resulting from EPA activities at an abandoned mine in western Colorado.
According to the Denver Post, an EPA mine crew working Thursday at the Standard Mine in the mountains near Crested Butte, triggered another spill of some 2,000 gallons of wastewater into a nearby mountain creek. Supporting Tipton’s remarks to Watchdog Arena, the Denver Post report states that the EPA had failed to release a report about the incident at the time of its writing.
Unlike the Gold King Mine, where on Aug. 5, an EPA mine crew exploring possible clean-up options, blew out a structural plug in the mine releasing over 3 million gallons of toxic waste into the Animas River, the Standard Mine is an EPA-designated superfund site, where the federal agency has been directing ongoing clean-up efforts.
According to the Washington Times regarding this latest spill, Tipton’s spokesman, Josh Green, said that locals in the Crested Butte area confirmed the spill. Watchdog Arena spoke directly with Tipton Thursday afternoon who claimed, “They are reporting that the spill consisted of “gray water,” and was not toxic. But the definition of gray water does not preclude the presence of possible toxic substances.”
The proximity in both time and geographical distance between Thursday’s Standard Mine spill and the Animas River disaster just two months ago is alarming to officials in this region of Colorado. The Denver Post quoted the concerns of Mayor Aaron Huckstep of Crested Butte, who said:
We certainly have an interest in protecting the town’s water supply. We will be vigilant. This is disappointing. It points to the exact same concerns you saw down in Silverton. A lot of these mountain communities like Crested Butte have old mining operations. … They create dangerous circumstances when you try to go in and do cleanup. … We want to see situations like this minimized.
Although the scale of the Standard Mine spill is much smaller than that which turned the Animas River pumpkin-orange and flowed into New Mexico and Utah, it will likely be of concern for residents living downstream where the effected Elk Creek runs into Coal Creek.
Tipton told Watchdog Arena that the EPA, to date, has failed to provide answers to Congress about its handling of the Aug. 5 Gold King mine disaster. “We still have not received any answers to the initial request to the EPA. In hearings, Gina McCarthy claimed to know nothing about the Congressional letter of inquiry into the spill, and her staff just shrugged.”
Tipton, whose district, in two months has been impacted by two significant accidents triggered by EPA mine crews, said that the House of Representatives is devising “good Samaritan” legislation that would ensure, in the case of disasters such as these, local and state officials are able get involved and take charge of these issues to address them in more timely and effective ways than the EPA has done.
“We question the veracity of the EPA and its capacity to properly handle these disasters,” he said. “We want our local governments and officials to be nimble enough to address the issues of impact to water, habitats, environment, and people, which the EPA is either unwilling or unable to do.”
This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.