Washington, D.C. - Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today released the following statement after the Department of Interior released a report finding that errors by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) directly led to the spill at the Gold King Mine in Colorado last August. The spill released over three million gallons of toxic wastewater into the Animas River.

Chairman Smith: “A new report by the Interior Department finds that the EPA could have prevented millions of gallons of toxic wastewater from spilling into Colorado’s Animus last summer. In the aftermath of the spill, EPA attempted to avoid responsibility by claiming the spill was ‘inevitable.’ However, the Interior Department’s report clearly shows this was not the case. The EPA’s negligence is inexcusable since there were known procedures to prevent such a disaster. As the Committee learned in a hearing more than a month ago, the EPA should have drilled into the mine from above to understand the threat. As the agency entrusted by the American people to protect the environment, it’s appalling that for months the EPA failed to be forthcoming about what went wrong.”

In September, the Science Committee convened the first congressional hearing to examine the actions that led to the spill. Many questions were raised about the timeliness of EPA’s communications with state and local officials immediately following the spill. In some instances, the appropriate authorities were not notified of the spill until 24 hours after the incident. EPA was also slow to provide the public and the Committee with information about the accident.

The toxic spill was so substantial that it traveled nearly 300 miles through Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, to Lake Powell on the Arizona-Utah border. The wastewater contained lead, arsenic, thallium and other heavy metals that may cause health problems and harm aquatic life.

To date, no individual has been held responsible and EPA has yet to admit any negligence.

The Interior Department’s full report can be found here.