Watchdog: EPA acted legally, reasonably in 2015 Colorado mine spill

EPA employees generally acted within the bounds of the law and reason during and after the 2015 Gold King Mine disaster in Colorado, an inspector general’s report Monday concluded.

Investigators reviewed 16 different questions related to the Gold King spill and largely cleared the EPA in the disaster that caused 3 million gallons of mine waste sludge with toxic heavy metals to flow into a tributary of the Animas River.

The inspector general report released Monday found there wasn’t likely much the EPA could have done differently when its contractor accidentally removed material that was holding back mining waste at a high pressure, nor could it have acted much differently in the response to the spill.

On the key question of whether the EPA should have done more to determine the pressure at the abandoned mine entrance, the report sided with the EPA workers involved.

“We found it reasonable that the EPA had not conducted direct testing of the water level or pressure during the removal site evaluation at Gold King Mine by the time of the release on August 5, 2015,” the report said.

Investigators found that EPA, Colorado and contractor officials working on the site were “qualified, experienced individuals with relevant expertise.”

And the process the EPA used for notifying area officials and those downstream was also reasonable, investigators found.


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