Was the Animas River Spill a “Superfund Blitzkrieg” to fund favored contractors and new projects?
News related to the Animas River spill continues to stream from Colorado, including the discovery that a warning that a spill of wastewater was likely if EPA’s plans to drain the mines went forward as planned had been issued a week earlier.
The Silverton Standard published an eerie prediction made by professional geologist Dave Taylor detailing a sequence of events that could lead to environmental catastrophe on July 30, 2015. The editorial included the assertion that the EPA was poised to launch a “Superfund Blitzkrieg”. Gateway Pundit has a copy of the full letter; a summary of the key points I would like to cover is below:
…Based on my 47 years of experience as a professional geologist, it appears to be that the EPA is setting your town and the area up for a potential Superfund blitzkrieg.
…[M]ake no mistake, within seven to 150 days all of the 500 gpm flow will return to Cement Creek. Contamination may actually increase due to disturbance and flushing action within the workings.
The “grand experiment” in my opinion will fail. And guess what [EPA representative] Mr. Hestmark will say then?
Gee “Plan A” didn’t work so I guess that we will have to build a treatment plant at a cost to taxpayers of $100 million to $500 million (who knows).
Reading between the lines, I believe that the EPA’s plan all along. The proposed Red & Bonita plugging plan has been their way of getting a foot in the door to justify their hidden agenda for construction of a treatment plant. After all, with a budget of $8.2 billion and 17,000 employees, the EPA needs new, big projects to keep them in existence.”
Prior to the Obama Administration, I would be skeptical of an agency generating a major crisis in order to fix the problem it created. However, in the wake of Fast and Furious, this possibility must be considered.
To better comprehend the potential EPA goal, it is important to understand what Superfund is. Superfund is the program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites, and it involves a complex process of identifying parties responsible for waste clean-up, arranging for the decontamination of the site, coordinating activity with local entities, and publishing reports. The regulation allows the EPA to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups.
However, before any decontamination can begin, the area must be placed on the National Priorities List. And while the EPA has been attempting to get Animas declared a Superfund site for the past 25 years, the idea lacked real appeal for residents because tourists generally don’t consider hazardous waste sites great vacation destinations.
In the 1990s, sections of the Animas had been nominated by the EPA as a Superfund site for clean-up of pollutants from the Gold King Mine and other mining operations along the river, but lack of community support prevented its listing. Locals had feared that the label of a Superfund site would reduce the tourism in the area, the largest remaining source of income left in the region after the closure of the metal mines.
Lorraine Yapps Cohen, who I have worked with in the past to promote sensible science public policies, is a part-time resident of Durango, Co., which is one of the towns hardest hit by the release. She reports that the residents are livid and the businesses are hurting.
Cohen also shared an intriguing email from La Plata County is Allison Morrissey, indicating pressure is building to declare Silverton a Superfund site.
… But no one wants to leave any money on the table – especially when we don’t know the long term effects of this spill. There is a lot of local pressure now to get these mining sites in Silverton declared a Superfund site (then we can gets lots of $). Silverton has always claimed it was a local decision, and it would negatively impact tourism. Now La Plata County is saying that we have a say in the matter – because the Animas water is our lifeblood – and we need the sites cleaned up.
As Taylor predicted in his editorial, it appears that the process of Superfund listing has been expedited.
One aspect of this disaster that I have been questioning is the involvement of the contractor, because if Taylor had anticipated the release, then someone on that staff should have as well. The Wall Street Journal has the following information about Environmental Restoration, LLC:
From October 2007 through this month, Environmental Restoration has been awarded $381 million in federal contracts, according to government procurement data compiled on USAspending.gov. The vast majority—more than $364 million—of that total was for work for the EPA. About 10%, or $37 million of the EPA’s awarded amount, was for contracts within the state of Colorado.
The Gold King mine wasn’t a designated Superfund cleanup site, which would have required far more funding. Rather, Environmental Restoration was trying to stop wastewater from escaping the mine at the time of the breach, government documents indicate.
The massive spill—which resulted in dramatic images of mustard-colored wastewater laced with heavy metals—highlights the market for environmental cleanup firms, a lucrative government contracting business. The company was listed by an engineering trade publication last year as one of the top 100 environmental firms in the country, with revenue estimated at close to $80 million.
Reviewing the data points, and assuming that Environmental Restoration knew what Taylor knew, then why did they proceed with the operation? Was it because the situation was a win-win?
In other words, if they contained the wastewater, that was good. However, if it spilled into the river, then ultimately the EPA would be able to declare an environmental disaster and utilize the Superfund rules to locate responsible parties to pay and clean-up the mess. And if Environmental Restoration was tasked with the decontamination, even better!
If any of this is true, then the EPA has really deviated from its original mission. Its purpose was to protect the nation’s environment, not to shut down businesses with burdensome regulations and astronomical fines.
The Obama Administration has conducted a blitzkrieg on American businesses since its start, so if what Taylor surmised is right, then at least the EPA’s actions are consistent with that mission.
Meanwhile, I have to ask: What did the EPA representatives know and when did they know it?DONATE
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