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BLM Email Contradicts EPA’s Account of Gold King Mine Spill

An email from a Bureau of Land Management official contradicts the Environmental Protection Agency’s official account of what led up to the Gold King Mine spill last August.

The email, which was released at the House Natural Resources Committee, came from Brent Lewis, the lead of the abandoned mine land program at BLM’s Colorado State Office. On August 7, Lewis wrote that the EPA was “digging out the plug” at the Gold King Mine. But an earlier account from an EPA official said the EPA crew avoided the plug.

“The EPA’s plan was to slowly drain and treat enough mine water in order to access the inner mine working and assess options for controlling its discharge. While removing small portions of the natural plug, the material catastrophically gave-way and released the mine water,” wrote Lewis.

Lewis’ email was sent two days after the EPA excavated the mine and caused a leak that spilled three million gallons of water into Gold King Mine into an Animas River tributary and spread contaminants from the mine in Colorado through waterways in New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

An October email from EPA On-Scene Coordinator Hays Griswold emphasized that the EPA crew made every effort to avoid the plug, according to a report released by Republican members of the committee last month.

“The truth is we decided to avoid any contact with the blockage whatsoever and simply remove the loose dirt above the blockage for two reasons,” Griswold wrote.

“Despite Mr. Griswold’s claims that they wanted to avoid contact with and keep dirt from falling on the plug, the EPA crew had almost entirely buried the plug when they backfilled the excavation to near the top of the adit,” House Natural Resource Republicans wrote in their report.

Last month, House Natural Republicans found that the Environmental Protection Agency violated the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act with its actions leading up to the spill.