It turns out an environmental remediation contractor was the one at fault for contaminating the Animas River in Colorado.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Environmental Restoration LLC was contracted out by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect the nearby water reservoirs. Because the Gold King Mine was being services at the time, the remediation firm was tasked with finding ways to keep pollutants out of the water.
Instead, however, approximately 3 million gallons of contaminated water spilled from the mine into the fresh water, according to the EPA.
While it was certainly not their intention, the damage has been done and now needs to be fixed. A report from the San Francisco Chronicle said that chemicals in the spill included arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury — a deadly combination with potential long-term environmental impact.
The river itself has turned a dark, murky yellow, raising concerns for the communities that utilize water from that source for drinking, irrigation, and recreation. The states of Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico, along with the Navajo Nation, were all affected by the damage caused.
The incident has become a political issue as members from both parties took the opportunity to blast the EPA response.
“Among the most basic and simple questions that Coloradans want answered after the Gold King Mine spill are, ‘What is in the water?’ and ‘Is it safe?'” said Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado. He went on to criticize the EPA’s initial reaction as “too slow and inadequate.”
The situation also brings questions on the ethical nature of awarding environmental contracting jobs to certain companies.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Environmental Restoration has received more tha $380 million from federal contracts. Most of that amount ($364 million) was from the EPA directly.