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Tipton letter to EPA demands answers about Gold King Mine spill

Congressional group pressures agency
Tipton

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and 29 of his congressional colleagues sent a second letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, demanding answers about the Gold King Mine spill. The letter presses EPA officials to better explain the circumstances of the Aug. 5 event that sent an estimated three million gallons of contaminated wastewater down the Animas River.

Since the orange sludge passed through Durango earlier this month, turning the river into a contamination zone, Tipton has been a vocal critic of the EPA, the agency responsible for causing the spill. Last week, he sent a letter to the EPA calling administrator Gina McCarthy to disclose plans for the cleanup of the contamination, and Monday, Tipton pledged to launch a congressional investigation into the agency’s handling of the spill.

In his most recent letter, Tipton focused his questions on what led to the wastewater blowout, and the EPA’s “unsatisfactory” response in the wake of the spill.

“We remain completely unsatisfied with the delay in notifying the impacted communities and elected officials responsible for preparing and responding to a disaster such as this one,” he wrote.

Tipton asked why EPA officials took more than 24 hours to alert local agencies that a breach at the abandoned mine occurred and what steps the EPA plans to take in the future to avoid a similar delay.

He also demanded a timeline of the work on the mine to see any video or images of the incident if available and how much the EPA had planned to spend on the project that would have improved conditions at the Gold King Mine.

The EPA hired contractors for a restoration program that would have updated infrastructure in the aging mine. The EPA said those hired employees were working to reduce wastewater leakage when the structure holding back the toxic flow collapsed.

Tipton’s letter dug for information on the contracted company, asking if the firm would be held responsible for “damages sustained by individuals or communities based on the work they were performing.” He also asked at what frequency the EPA would continue to test the river and future plans for monitoring next spring when water levels are at its highest.

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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