Feds stand behind report that Colorado agreed to mine plan

In this Aug. 14, 2015 photo, water flows through a series of sediment retention ponds built to reduce heavy metal and chemical contaminants from the Gold King Mine wastewater accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo. Colorado officials are disputing a key claim by federal agencies about a massive spill of toxic wastewater from an inactive mine. A report by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, said two state mining experts signed off on an Environmental Protection Agency cleanup project that led to the Aug. 5 spill at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)
In this Aug. 14, 2015 photo, water flows through a series of sediment retention ponds built to reduce heavy metal and chemical contaminants from the Gold King Mine wastewater accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo. Colorado officials are disputing a key claim by federal agencies about a massive spill of toxic wastewater from an inactive mine. A report by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, said two state mining experts signed off on an Environmental Protection Agency cleanup project that led to the Aug. 5 spill at the Gold King Mine in southwest Colorado. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

DENVER (AP) – A federal agency on Monday stood behind its assertion that Colorado officials signed off on a cleanup project that led to a 3 million-gallon toxic waste spill from an inactive gold mine.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s statement was the latest twist in a dispute between state and federal agencies over what role Colorado officials had in the spill.

The federal agencies have said two state mining experts endorsed the project and agreed with federal officials from the scene that there was little threat of a massive spill. But in a letter made public last week, Colorado officials denied those claims.

The spill occurred Aug. 5 at the Gold King Mine in southwestern Colorado. A crew led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was trying to insert a pipe through debris covering the mine entrance to gradually drain water backed up inside.

The crew inadvertently unleashed a torrent of water laden with heavy metals, polluting rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Both the EPA and the Bureau of Reclamation said the crew underestimated the water pressure in the mine.

In separate reports, the EPA said the state experts agreed the water inside the mine was under little or no pressure, and the Bureau of Reclamation – which conducted an outside technical review of the spill – said the state experts signed off on the plan to insert the drain pipe.

The state experts were from the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety, part of the state Department of Natural Resources. Natural Resources Director Mike King wrote in a Sept. 2 letter to the EPA’s inspector general that the state experts didn’t make any determination of the water pressure and didn’t approve or disapprove of the drain pipe plan.

The Associated Press obtained the letter last week through an open records request.

The Bureau of Reclamation had not previously commented on King’s letter. On Monday, bureau spokesman Peter Soeth said the information in the report came from the Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety. He said he couldn’t be more specific.

EPA officials have said they’re reviewing King’s letter.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WKBN 27 First News provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. No links will be permitted. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s