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« In which Nature Climate validates my predictive models | Main | Social licences »

Environmental regulators trashing the environment

My concern over a massive discharge of polluted water into a river in Colorado is lightened at least slightly by the discovery that the culprit was the Environmental Protection Agency.

The city of Durango and La Plata County, Colorado, have declared a state of emergency after a federal cleanup crew accidentally released mine waste into the water.

An estimated 1 million gallons of waste water spilled out of an abandoned mine area in the southern part of the state last week, turning the Animas River orange and prompting the Environmental Protection Agency to tell locals to avoid it.

A deserving case, I would say.

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Reader Comments (30)

Do you think they are going to fine themselves?

Aug 10, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commentermikec

mikec, it makes a lot of sense to fine themselves by an astronomical record amount.

It's not going to be paid by them; they are backed by the US Federal Government.
They would set a new precedent for the size of such fines.
And they can guarantee that that precedent won't be challenged by an appeal.

Aug 10, 2015 at 4:25 PM | Registered CommenterM Courtney

I'm looking forward to seeing how (or if) the Grauniad covers this..

Aug 10, 2015 at 4:34 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

I'm sure they'll be hammered like BP. Not.

Aug 10, 2015 at 5:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

I think that the mine was closed in 1923.

Aug 10, 2015 at 5:33 PM | Unregistered Commentereyesonu

EPA underestimated, and downplayed the impact for 24 hours. Three million gallons. Contaminates water supply for the Navajo Nation. And ends up in Lake Powell, the drinking water supply for Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. An environmental disaster of heavy metal contaminarion: lead, arsenic, cadmium.
Simply gross negligence not to have built a just in case containment cofferdam before mucking with the blocked mine entrance. They knew it was already leaking; that is why there were there in the first place.

Aug 10, 2015 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterRud Istvan

The river is in Colarado. Lawyers as far away as Washington will be able to find damaged business, and make money out of it.

Aug 10, 2015 at 5:48 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The Environmental Pollution Agency demonstrate damage limitation at its best.

Aug 10, 2015 at 6:03 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

The Lawyer shark is one of the few animals to thrive in water like that.

Aug 10, 2015 at 6:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda
Aug 10, 2015 at 7:03 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Million gallons is nothing. What counts is amount of poison in those gallons.

The orange color is just dirt, but isn't it beautiful.

Aug 10, 2015 at 7:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterHugh

You would think a 3 million gallon spill of bright orange mine waste which has travelled more than 120 miles, would attract immediate Big Media attention, especially from the sensitive enviro repeaters.
You would be completely wrong. Five days after the event, it did not even register on Google news headlines and was virtually invisible in the national press, with a special non-mention of the $8.2 Billion/yr EPA as responsible.

You would think this event would have been a gold mine for the final episode of comedian Jon Stewart's faux news,The Daily show, (which is rated as a trusted source of "real news" by many 18-30 yr/old American liberals) but no mention at all. The revelation that the long running conservative ridiculer met regularly in secret with Obama could shed some light.

This spill has been like an angiogram in tracing the circulation patterns and blockages in the media. Too bad it will not be so obvious as to be seen from outer space.

Aug 10, 2015 at 7:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterBetapug

Hugh: The orange colour isn't just dirt. In disused metal mine workings it is usually a mixture of ochre and clay, a highly unstable thixotropic mixture. Left to its own devices it can form an impenetrable barrier to impounded water. The trouble is, if you disturb it, it can liquefy in seconds releasing the impounded water, then solidifying just as quick when the water is gone. Not very nice if you happen to be standing in it when it sets.

Aug 10, 2015 at 7:43 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

If this was in the UK there would be promotions and big bonuses all round. After all, they only spilled 1million gallons - it could have been far worse and they prevented a much larger spill.

Aug 10, 2015 at 8:06 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

pH level in Cement Creek is 3.74.

Now that is true acidification for you, not just a slight neutralization. Where is Greenpiece on this?

Aug 10, 2015 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered Commentereyesonu

I'm sure the American courts will find a way to blame BP.

Aug 10, 2015 at 8:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDaveS

For more extensive coverage and a map. A bit repetitive but more info.

Aug 10, 2015 at 8:46 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan bates

For more extensive coverage and a map. A bit repetitive but more info.

No fish were killed. The water was already poisonous - so that's all right.

Aug 10, 2015 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered Commenteralan bates

DaveS: good point. Were there any English people in the area? Backpackers, people driving by or flying overhead? We must be told, so we know who to blame!

Aug 10, 2015 at 9:26 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Well, as anyone knows, employment in the EPA (as for the IRS) is a function of one's loyalty to the Democratic Party, not one's competence or ethics.

Aug 10, 2015 at 9:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Russell

1,000, 000 gallons is a nice big round figure, and US gallons are smaller than Imperial gallons. Ball park estimates suggest the following:

An Olympic Swimming pool, the journalistic standard measurement of volume is 50m × 25m × 3m = 3, 750 cubic metres = 3, 750, 000 litres = 825, 000 imp gallons also the capacity of 100 UK road haulage petrol tankers.

What were the EPA going to do with this liquid on site, that would have resulted in substantially less cost than transporting an Olympic Swimming Pool's volume (+20%) of liquid somewhere else for treatment?

I can well believe that a gallon of water soluble dye will discolour 1000 gallons of river water, but the sums do not add up, even by Green standards.

Aug 10, 2015 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Were this done by a mine operator, heads would roll, fines would be paid, and it would be in the news for months.

Aug 11, 2015 at 12:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterWally

Thank you Golf Charlie, for putting the spill volume into an understandable perspective!

An Olympic Swimming pool, the journalistic standard measurement of volume is 50m × 25m × 3m = 3, 750 cubic metres = 3, 750, 000 litres = 825, 000 imp gallons also the capacity of 100 UK road haulage petrol tankers.

Aug 10, 2015 at 10:59 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie "

Three million USA gallons equals 11,356.24m³ or roughly three Olympic size swimming pools with a 106.24m³ spillover.

Finite very manageable amount of mud and water.

The eco-green contaminated press have already inundated news outlets with bogus statements and biased presentations. Believe nothing they say until it is proven. Nullius in Verba!

A) The riverine picture starting the little video is way more than three Olympic swimming pools. It is likely the river pictured has a flow greater than three million gallons per second.

B) Pictured right up front in that videoette is a feeder stream entering the river. Note that the feeder stream is the same color as the river! The color of both the river and stream are most likely caused by filming shortly after thunderstorms have passed through causing flash floods; a not uncommon event.

C) All of the news broadcast list all possible evils found in the water. None of the broadcasts have actually listed actual measures of contaminants in the water.

D) Several news sources have reported:
- a) there are no fish kills.
- b) Scientists have already verified live insect populations after the spill passed.
- c) It is unlikely that cyanide (gold processing), arsenic or even selenium salts were released in the spill.

Leaving the prospect that the majority of the spill was dirt clay and water.

Oh, a minor translation for those might be curious:
Ochre - Iron ore or common rust in a hydrated form.
Clay - fine grained natural rock particles. How fine? Finer than silt. Where silt is usually the result of abrasive processes, clay is the result of rock decomposition from chemical weathering, water leaching the rocks over time.
Clay plus ochre is completely safe for human consumption in moderate amounts; Salopian is correct that clay can flow, then set when the flow stops. Clay constipation is not for the faint hearted.

A further note of curiosity abatement; selenium salts are a primary cause for poisonous wells that are often pictured in desert and cowboy pictures and movies with a cattle skull(s) and a "Do Not Drink" sign. There is a large area of Utah with sporadic high soil concentrations of selenium salts. Making arid area crossings much harder for pioneers crossing Utah. If the Native Americans were cruel, they would've installed signs that announced "Drink here!"

Wait for genuine measured details!

Aug 11, 2015 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

"So your position is what? That you applaud all the fossil fuel companies which add to the greenhouse effect with their CO2 emissions (I notice you never answer questions about your funding Andrew), but suddenly the EPA are demons when something happens by accident?..."

Accident? A bulldozer breaks through an earthen dam and zeddeadbug claims it is an accident? I'd like to hear your explanation for what an accident is, well not really.

"...You really are laughable Andrew, and I hope your children understand how much you worked to delay action on climate change in their lifetimes. They're going to have words to say to you about that when they realise their father lied and lied and lied and lied in order to promote fossil fuels, when we should have been focusing on decarbonisation..."

Let's understand this claim zeddeadbugs;
Our conscientious Bishop Hill posts and allows posts that offer science, mathematics, analysis, statistics and even politics for open discussion. Zeddeadbugs claims that the Bishop is delaying climate change action.

Andrew need never fear anyone honest claiming that Andrew lied. That's what comes when someone like Andrew and his team sticks to provable facts and open honesty. Nor has Andrew ever promoted any actions that have harmed living people.

Claims that the eco-crowds and their poverty inducing climate actions are definitively guilty of. You and your mad eco crowd are the saddest and deadliest joke I know of zeddy.

"...For the umpteenth time, who funds this blog Andrew?

Aug 11, 2015 at 12:22 AM | Unregistered CommenterZedsDeadBed"

zeddybedbug, that funding question has been answered many many times! We fund Bishop Hill! And we are proud of that fact!

So, when reality eventually filters into your brain zeddy, perhaps you will return and drop significant cash to cover all of the years you missed.

Aug 11, 2015 at 1:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterATheoK

"For the umpteenth time, who funds this blog Andrew?"

Once again, those who accuse skeptics of believing in conspiracy theories conspiratorially insinuate that there are hidden benefactors supporting the skeptics' efforts. This attitude is almost certainly projection because that's the method of operation of the climate-obsessed crowd themselves (well, in their case it's done with taxpayer monies).

Aug 11, 2015 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiperPaul

"For the umpteenth time.."

Funnily enough, I don't remember Zed ever asking that. He used to air a similar grievance about the GWPF, so perhaps he's just getting confused in his declining years. Good to know he's still reading, though...

Aug 11, 2015 at 5:20 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"when something happens by accident"

Like finding oneself at the bottom of Truro river with unfeasibly heavy footwear..?

Just feeding your paranoia, Zed.. :-)

Aug 11, 2015 at 5:28 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Old news, but a new angle:
Should oil companies regulate pollution-producing activities of the EPA?
American Thinker: LINK

Aug 11, 2015 at 10:42 PM | Registered CommenterRobert Christopher

The irony of seeing EPA folks being the direct perpetrators of the spill notwithstanding, for _some_ interesting background discussion on this spill (and related ongoing issues), see the following (Aug 12) audio podcast link from the NPR program "On Point with Tom Ashbrook" - from about the 38 minute/45 second point to the end of the program at about the 45 minute point:

If that link doesn't play, you may be able to hear it at the "On Point" web page at The podcast is headlined "Farming Goes High-Tech".

Like others have stated above, I would also hope that we get to see a release of a full chemical analysis of the spill's contents and its _relative_ hazards/toxicity - not just scare headlines.

Aug 13, 2015 at 5:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterOldUnixHead

Would you expect any different outcome when a group of donkeys is responsible for actually doing something?

We must remember these folk have been so busy homogenising that they just don't get time to think straight.

Aug 13, 2015 at 6:10 AM | Unregistered Commentertoorightmate

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