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Nate Jackson / August 24, 2015

EPA Knew of ‘Blowout’ Danger Ahead of River Accident

But everything’s under control.

Earlier this month, the EPA accidentally dumped three million gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River in Colorado. EPA Chief Gina McCarthy apologized, saying, “[W]e’ve committed to a full review of exactly what happened to ensure it can never happen again.” Well, documents released Friday indicate the EPA not only knows exactly what happened but it knew in advance what could happen. Prior to the accident, according to an EPA report from June 2014, “This condition has likely caused impounding of water behind the collapse. In addition, other collapses within the workings may have occurred creating additional water impounding conditions. Conditions may exist that could result in a blowout of the blockages and cause a release of large volumes of contaminated mine waters and sediment from inside the mine, which contain concentrated heavy metals.” Some of the reports, however, were redacted by EPA officials, which itself leads to other questions. First among them is why it took the EPA 24 hours to notify anyone of the accident, especially given they knew the danger ahead of time. Finally, McCarthy gave the good news Friday that the “river is restoring itself.” But when was the last time the EPA said that about an accident caused by a private company?

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