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Watchdog Launches Criminal Investigation into Gold King Mine Spill

Colorado Animas River Toxic Mine Spill

(Colorado's Animas River turned orange from the Gold King Mine toxic spill in 2015.)

Nearly a year after Colorado’s Gold King mine disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Inspector General confirmed a criminal investigation into the toxic spill.

The EPA OIG announced the status of its work to Congressional members, responding to bipartisan requests for a criminal investigation.

The Project On Government Oversight previously reported on the toxic mine spill and criticized the hard rock mining laws that burden federal taxpayers and the local community with clean-up costs. POGO also raised many questions about the contracts, including those awarded in the days before and after the spill. A nearly $1 million contract modification with Environmental Restoration LLC—the EPA contractor working onsite at Gold King Mine where the spill occurred—was signed on August 4, the day before the spill. Looking at those contracting documents could assist in determining who was responsible, who know what when, and whether the public was being misled, especially since the contractor involved was hiding behind a confidentiality agreement.

In a press release this week, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) applauded the EPA OIG for the criminal investigation:

“This week marks one year since the EPA caused three million gallons of toxic, acidic, wastewater to rush into the Animas and San Juan Rivers into the Navajo reservation’s borders – devastating the Navajo peoples’ lands and livelihoods. There’s no question as to the EPA’s culpability for this spill and this criminal investigation is critical to ensuring justice is served for all those impacted by this terrible disaster.”

Hopefully this investigation is looking at EPA’s and the contractor’s level of involvement in the days before and after the spill.

Read more about the investigation into the Gold King Mine disaster at Buzzfeed.

By: Iulia Gheorghiu
Beth Daley Impact Fellow, POGO

Photo of Iulia Gheorghiu Iulia is the Beth Daley Impact fellow at the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Government Accountability, Energy and Natural Resources, Contract Oversight

Related Content: Contractor Accountability, Inspector General Oversight, Energy & Environment

Authors: Iulia Gheorghiu

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