EDITORIAL: EPA spills toxic sludge

"Rayna Willhite, of Aztec, holds a bottle of water collected from the Animas River on Thursday near Bakers Bridge. The river is carrying mine waste from the Gold King Mine north of Silverton. (Photo by Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)"

A giant, million-gallon plume of orange toxic sludge is moving down a creek that flows into the Animas River. The sludge is on its way to New Mexico. It was released by workers operating heavy equipment Wednesday near the entrance of the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado. Those who caused the contamination failed to warn New Mexico authorities, who are understandably miffed.

It sounds like the type of big-mess episode the Environmental Protection Agency has warned about while holding up all sorts of mining, drilling and construction projects throughout the country — usually at great expense to working Americans who need affordable energy and jobs. It sounds like some for-profit corporation didn't have the common courtesy to sound the alarm after causing an environmental atrocity.

Of course, it is not as one might suspect. The toxic spill — among the worst water contamination events Colorado has suffered in years — was caused by the EPA. The agency charged with protecting our air and water just polluted water and hesitated to tell those who are threatened downstream.

New Mexico's environmental secretary and Gov. Susana Martinez blasted the agency for not letting them know about the spill.

"The Governor is disturbed by the lack of information provided by the EPA to our environmental agencies in New Mexico and strongly believes that people in our communities downstream deserve to have all the information about this situation," said Chris Sanchez, the governor's spokesperson.

New Mexico officials learned about the spill not from the EPA, but from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe.

Let's remember this contamination mishap, and the government's botched response, the next time EPA officials treat a jobs-creating endeavor as if it is a water-poisoning crime scene waiting to happen. Let's remember the EPA, not miners or frackers, spilled toxic sludge and failed to warn our neighbors.

The Gazette


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