If you’ve seen the headlines, you no doubt “know” that the EPA unintentionally caused the spill of more than 3 million gallons of toxic sludge into the scenic Animas River. With great glee, the so-called liberal media announced that the Environmental Protection Agency was responsible for polluting our environment.
But wait! There’s more to the story that the majority of the media haven’t covered.
There are tens of thousands of mines in Colorado and other states that are disasters waiting to happen. Most of these mines were abandoned by their owners after the ore ran out leaving them as ticking time bombs for the public to clean up. And it’s not just old mines which were dug in the 1800s. The Gold King Mine, while no longer operational, was depleted in the 1990s. And the Sunnyside Mine, which was leaking about 200 gallons of toxic water into the Gold King before the spill, is currently owned and operated by a Canadian company.
The two mines had become such a threat to the Animas River, the EPA had wanted to declare the area a superfund site, designated for extensive cleanup. But, worried about the impact on tourism, Silverton and San Juan County apparently asked the EPA for permission to quietly conduct the cleanup themselves. When they failed, the EPA stepped in last Fall. But since it was too late in the season, the EPA hired a contractor to seal the Gold King Mine. When they came back to unseal the mine and to contain the polluted water with a plastic liner, the dam holding back the water failed.
So the EPA, which is underfunded and under constant attack from conservatives who despise any form of regulation, is being blamed for the damage. How convenient for the right wing oligarchs!
After a constant drumbeat of hate directed toward the EPA and constant threats to further cut its funding, the GOP with help from the media finally found the story it was looking for…a story that would embarrass the EPA and turn the public against it. After all, who reads beyond the headlines? Who cares about another government agency? Who remembers what the country was like before the EPA; when the corporations were free to pollute without control; when the air in our cities became almost too toxic to breathe; when the chemicals in the Cuyahoga River caught on fire thirteen times?
Never mind that the EPA has become one of the nation’s most effective watchdogs to protect us from the greedy corporations defiling our air, water and food. Never mind that it does so against overwhelming odds – unable to hire enough regulators to oversee thousands of polluting corporations and individuals. Never mind that, prior to the Gold King spill, the EPA had cleaned up roughly 9,000 polluted mines in Colorado alone.
The EPA and one of its private contractors had an accident. Let’s crucify them. Not those responsible for creating the problem in the first place.