Washington D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today requested information and a briefing after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week caused a massive spill that polluted the Animas River in southern Colorado.  The EPA accidentally released millions of gallons of contaminated waste water from an abandoned mine into the river, turning it bright orange and initiating local officials to declare a state of emergency. According to the EPA, the spill occurred when one of its cleanup teams was using heavy equipment at the abandoned Gold King Mine near Durango, Colorado.

[[{"fid":"106","view_mode":"teaser","fields":{"format":"teaser","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":""},"type":"media","attributes":{"class":"media-element file-teaser"}}]]

Photo credit: Jerry McBride/The Durango Herald via AP

Chairman Smith: “It has been five days since the spill and the EPA has failed to answer important questions, including whether the polluted water poses health risks to humans or animals. It is concerning that the agency charged with ensuring that the nation’s waters are clean is reportedly responsible for the toxic water spill at Gold King Mine. A spill of this magnitude could be devastating for the families who live nearby and depend on the Animas River in their daily lives. It is imperative that the EPA quickly take steps to repair the damage from this spill.  Moreover, it is vitally important that the EPA learn why this happened and what the agency can do to prevent this from ever occurring again.” 

Local officials have warned residents to avoid any contact with the river and believe the spill may have carried heavy metals into the river, including iron, zinc and copper. To avoid further contamination, the EPA has also asked farmers to shut off irrigation from the river.

Smith’s letter requests a detailed briefing from the agency, the results of water analysis conducted on the Animas River, as well as weekly updates.

The full letter can be found here