On August 5, 2015 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had a huge wastewater mine spill – Gold King Mine – with over three million gallons of heavy metals that began in Colorado and has lent toxic pollution to New Mexico and Utah as well, including Native American land. CNN reported that according to EPA sampling, flowing into the Animas River was said to be high levels of arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, lead, and mercury. Exposure to heightened levels of these metals can inflict health issues such as kidney disease, cancer, and developmental problems for the young.
So now while our federal government’s EPA monitors and fines all companies for their mistakes and spills, who will be correcting and monitoring the EPA’s environmental disaster?
Who’s Watching the EPA?
The Environment Protective Agency’s mission is to protect human health and our environment. Does that motto contain limits or exclusions that are not explained to the general public? Does it exclude the EPA? It seems over time in Colorado alone there has been concern over the years about the EPA.
One local mine owner has stated that since 2005 the EPA has been releasing toxic runoff from mines in two small Colorado towns. While the EPA has been surrounded with coverage for the Gold King Mine spill recently, in 2005 they discretely dumped 15,000 tons of dangerous waste into another mine over 100 miles away. How can the EPA tell private companies this behavior is unacceptable but for them, it is ok to do and not discuss?
The governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, has declared a state-of-disaster which will access the state’s disaster funds in response to this spill. But why does the state have to pay for such a response to a federal government action causing the pollution? Why are the leaders of the EPA not being investigated and questioned by Congress for this type of incident?
It seems from knowledge of others that over time the Environmental Protective Agency has been getting away with toxic dumping and pollution, with no penalties against them. Now, we have a huge three million gallon “leak” that will cost taxpayers and still, nothing against the EPA for their devastating disaster. The EPA is commenting it will be fine, it is safe to drink the water.
Gina McCarthy, the chief of the EPA said in a statement, “Mine waste is under control at this point, as far as I know … The mine is being managed. My job is to manage the agency and the response and to ensure everyone that we will be fully accountable.”
While these are the proper sentiments one would hope would be expressed by the head of the EPA,
Protect Our Natural Habitat
This type of senseless spill into our natural habitat and societies can wreak havoc for all involved. It can damage the society that relies on the land and water to live, the wildlife depending on the humans to not destroy their home in the wilderness, and the land relying on us to not brutally abuse it.
In this landlocked state, many people rely on the means that local nature can provide them. Outside of those that live within an immediate area, tourism abounds because of the natural beauty in this part of our country. If EPA is able to get away with toxic dumping, won’t there be long term effects to the animals, nature, and to society? And if EPA can do it in such a beautiful and proud state such as Colorado, where else in our nation are they doing this, little by little, that is just waiting to turn into another major spill?
McCarthy has stated: “Our mission is to protect public health. We will hold ourselves to a higher standard.” But it is up to us to ensure that this is the case. We can all make a difference and help protect own state’s backyard by sharing our voices and concerns with the EPA. There are a number of petitions that have been launched in the wake of this disaster. You can add your name to the petition launched through the White House’s website here, or to this one, here, to ensure your opinion is heard.
Our EPA promises to watch over our land and protect our natural habitat; maybe that promise is only upheld for private issues rather than their own federal government mishaps. Either way, it is time for “accidents” of any cause to stop.
Lead image source: Associated Press