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Is there a backstory to the EPA pollution incident?

Further to the story that the EPA was responsible for a major pollution incident in Colarado a few days ago, Ivo Vegter posted a scan of a letter that was published in the local newspaper a few days before EPA started work. It's a bit hard to read, but well worth it if you can decipher sufficiently.

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Reader Comments (53)

Conspiracy or cock-up? With the EPA the probabilities are a dead heat!

I will plump for cock-up here.

Aug 13, 2015 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

A more readable scan of the letter can be found here. Evidently it was only published in the print edition.

Aug 13, 2015 at 10:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Koss

Easier to read here...

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

It would seem that the EPA action was known about before hand and agreed with the local group.

All went a bit wrong though.

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward

Jack Savage: You are discounting the fact that the geologist PREDICTED the catastrophic event, giving a detailed scenario for the water rise and contamination (which a child could understand as obvious--the water had to go somewhere). If that doesn't tilt the probability strongly toward conspiracy (the strong motivation for which the geologist also explained) in your mind, you are avoiding facing the truth. It's just such a lack of focused reasoning and hesitancy to recognize the obvious but outrageous truth, among the general public, that got Obama elected, first once and then a second time. Anyone who still doubts that the Insane Left (my term for the radicals now in power) is at war with America has their head in the sand.

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Dale Huffman


Just wow!

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

Hanlon's razor: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity".

Napoleon: "Never ascribe to malice that which can adequately be explained by incompetence".

From what I have read the EPA is full of stupidity and incompetence, as well as malice aforethought.

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:22 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@Harry Dale Huffman

I tend to agree . This would appear to be something that would be subject to the RICO Act if these were normal "nation of laws" and rule-of-law times.

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterIan W

Paul Homewood has a better copy on hos Blog "not a lot of People know that". Mind you the EPA have need of a fairly large income for all the jobsworths they employ.and Obygod is very fond of them.

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

Is it me, or has the Beeb said absolutely nothing about this incident? Or have they dropped it into some obscure place?

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

It's happened before and nor far away, same river drainage. The Summitville cleanup was a complete shambles by the EPA and was probably totally unnecessary.

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:54 AM | Unregistered Commenterseedy

Aug 13, 2015 at 11:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterDocBud

@DocBud: Thanks! I certainly didn't recall anything on the usual news.

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

Simpsons - The Movie was a documentary

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:06 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I go for c*ck up on this one. If it were a conspiracy, they would have let someone else make the spill then ridden in like a white knight.

It proves one thing, not only are our climate scientists better than theirs, not only our books,films and blogs better than theirs, but sceptical geologists are better than warmist geologists

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterEternalOptimist

Harry Huffman's assessment of Obama deliberately acting to America's detriment represents a remarkable challenge to have to accept but looks increasingly more accurate as time passes. How else do you explain a whole raft of quite stupid policies that appear highly damaging to America's national interest (and sometimes by extension the west's, too?) Getting rid of that clown and his limp-wristed party can't come soon enough.

Mind you such idiocy isn't restricted to the United States; see exhibit A: ALL the UK's pro-EU politicians. Pure treachery.

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:16 PM | Unregistered Commentercheshirered

Alan, it was on Channel 4 news last night, not sure about BBC TV, but it's on their website.

I expect it's stupidity and incompetence, combined with the arrogant "we are the experts, you don't know what you're talking about" type of attitude that we're very familiar with.

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:28 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

I do not know what to make of the letter by Dave Taylor. Somewhat related, though, is “Mine Busters at the EPA”, Wall Street Journal (11 August 2015). An extract is below.

Last week an EPA hazmat team hoped to inspect an abandoned Gold Rush-era mine near Durango, Colorado, and the backhoe digging out the collapsed cave entrance breached a retaining wall. The blowout spilled the contaminated sludge that had accumulated for nearly a century in the mine’s tunnels into a creek that is a tributary of the Animas River, flowing at a rate of 740 gallons a minute.

The plume of lead, arsenic, mercury, copper, cadmium and other heavy metals turned the water a memorable shade of yellow-orange chrome. The sludge is so acidic that it stings upon touch. Colorado, New Mexico and the Navajo Indian reservation have declared states of emergency as the contamination empties into Lake Powell in Utah and the San Juan River in New Mexico.

For 24 hours the EPA failed to warn state and local officials, who learned about the fiasco when they saw their river become yellow curry. The EPA’s initial estimate of the leakage was exposed by the U.S. Geologic Service as three times below the real rate. The agency hasn’t explained the cause of the accident.

Naturally, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, known as the Superfund law, gives EPA clean-up crews immunity from the trial bar when they are negligent. Yet the Durango blowout was entirely avoidable.

In an Aug. 8 “incident report,” the EPA notes that “the intent of the investigation was to create access to the mine, assess on-going water releases from the mine to treat mine water, and assess the feasibility of further mine remediation.” In other words, the mine was plugged, and the EPA was excavating in search of some notional make-work problem to solve.

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Tony Heller has a legible copy of the article:

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

About the "stupidity" and the "cock-up" and all. If you've ever sit around the table with bureaucrats you'll know immediately their biggest concern regarding any specific action they take or direct is based solely on CYA in the event of anything happen that would tarnish their career. Period. Even if there is no "hidden" agenda, the prime agenda would have been first answering a potential career ending "if I approve and it fails what will happen" followed by directives for the smart guys to go access risk of failure, action plans, etc., etc. And you need not be so naive to believe the EPA doesn't have legions of highly skilled, trained, educated and frothing at the mouth real science folks working for them. If an armchair, retired, casual geologist can clearly state the physics of their solution in terms even a Greenie could understand, then...
They knew.
They knew the risks.
They would not have taken the action unless they simply did not care.

Aug 13, 2015 at 12:47 PM | Unregistered Commentercedarhill

There is a joint in most organizations between the people who understand the problem and those who don't. In government there is a higher level joint between those who don't understand the problem and those who can't. It is likely that the decision to go ahead with this project was made not at the level of understanding, not at the level of not understanding, but at the highest level, the level of incapable of understanding, ie. political appointee.

Aug 13, 2015 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterjferguson

I'm always in favour of cock-up v conspiracy, however, when bureaucracies are involved you have to bear in mind the creation of 'beneficial crises'. The EU has been using/creating them since it's foundation, and Big Government just loves them.

1. Big Gov does stupid thing (with 'good' intentions of course).
2. Stupid thing causes disaster.
3. People cry 'SAVE US!'
4. More money to Big Gov, as only Big Gov can save us from disaster.
5. Go to point 1...

Aug 13, 2015 at 1:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Avoidance of conspiracy theorism always involves use of Sagan's test: extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence.

In this case, the claim (a) of a cock up isn't extraordinary at all. Even Spectre wouldn't dream of creating a problem big enough to warrant embarrassment and international news. Or so we hope.

The claim (b) of a reason behind the cock up is ordinary. Big Bureaucracy is well known for doing the most stupid things for the least obvious reasons, often self serving.

The claim (c) of a specific reason is extraordinary, given that it'd involve many people knowingly fooling the public. If the claimant will not produce extraordinary evidence, it's just a claim. Has anyone seen the same happen elsewhere.

All in all I'd say (a) 99%, (b) 90% and (c) 5% chance of being true.

Aug 13, 2015 at 2:00 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

This story breaks the "too amazing to be true" rule...Time will tell.

Aug 13, 2015 at 2:29 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

'God protect us from the EPA'. Well, I settle for the mysterious ways of the Courts, and the distant echo of vox populi.

Aug 13, 2015 at 2:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Hercules, they ain't. This augean petard ordered from ACME.

Aug 13, 2015 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Compare the reportage/fines/impact for EPA of this event to the one Bish mentioned 29 July 2015 when an Australian coal seam gas company got a bad test result and stupidly delayed telling the authorities by about 24 hours.

On 16 July 2010, the Kingaroy pilot plant was temporary shut down after traces of benzene and toluene were detected in groundwater monitoring bores. However, the level of hydrocarbons in the water was 95% lower than Australian drinking water guidelines. Two readings analysed by the independent testing laboratory also proved to be false and provided incorrect results. Copies of these mistakes were contained in further independent reports provided by Cougar Energy to DERM who subsequently acknowledged and accepted the findings.
Eventual Consequence was the abandonment of a $550m project.
I see 2 years later the Cougar dropped their case against the gov after both sides came to a settlement and no money changed hands .
.The govs prosecution of the corp resulted in Sep 24, 2013 $75,000 fine + $40,000 costs
excerpt from Financial Review "Prosecutor... Cougar had failed to install a production well in line with agreed environmental conditions and later released benzene into the local groundwater."
... also failed to notify authorities about the benzene release as soon as reasonably practicable.
... Defence lawyer .. argued the benzene release had been so minimal that it had not posed any actual risk."

Aug 13, 2015 at 2:40 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Malicious intent, in the outset warrants some sort of collective understanding, I see no evidence of it in the EPA, all it represents is, a vacuum of intellect and of wisdom.

Stupid advocacy and government departments full of ill educated civil servants is not exclusively a USA problem - is it?

You only need to pen this lot [below] a line, the replies tell you all you need to know......feckless, indolent, idle doesn't cut it - they are thick to boot and totally ignorant of about what they speak.

If we look over this side of the pond, to the Environment Agency [or choose any eco quango], it is replete with 'experts' who know bu88er all about the price of aught, it's just chock full of wet behind the ears civil servants who careless and don't wish to ken what it is that they are supposed to do [I don't know either]. I do know, the EA has made some major cock ups in the name of "saving the planet" and the Somerset levels immediately 'springs' to mind, the EA prevents dredging and thus causes flooding on the Thames etc and if your beach side dwelling has disappeared in Norfolk thank the North Sea but also think EA policy - just ask the Dutch what they think of; "marine reclamation" and "natural coastlines".

I also note that, somewhat spookily....... the mole { } in the EA has been shut down - was it GCHQ? Whatever happened to the land of free speech?

Aug 13, 2015 at 2:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Astonishing. Imagine if a mining or oil company had done this.

Aug 13, 2015 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

"Aug 13, 2015 at 12:16 PM | cheshirered"

Mr. Red. This Cheshire born Blue noted to many of his American friends, orgasming on the Obamanoid's election in 2008 that this was the first US president who talked like a European Socialist, and that they might live to regret it. I rest my case.

Aug 13, 2015 at 3:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Poynton

I see a trend. The EPA mismanaging mines to create funding, the BOM manipulating temperature data to keep the gravy train running, and the Met Office lying about you-know-what to keep multitudes of unnecessary staff. The Somerset Levels are another example. When the Royal Ulster Constabulary became corrupt they were dismembered and many of the top people removed. Draw your own conclusions.

Aug 13, 2015 at 3:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Borodin

Hooray for the EPA
Killing more rivers every day.

Aug 13, 2015 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

The letter doesn't actually prove anything except that a Geologist with 47 years experience could predict the outcome of what was being done. It doesn't prove that the outcome was planned, only that it may have been the result of one of two things incompetence or the plan. Having some knowledge of the people involved and their qualifications and experience would help decide which.

My money is on 20 year old arts graduates planning, approved by 25 year old PPE graduate, carried out by local cowboy builder who put in cheapest quote.

Aug 13, 2015 at 3:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

This exposes the perverse incentives of a non-accountable monopolistic federal agency like the US EPA, for which an incident like this will only serve to increase its budget and power. Contrast this to a competitive free market system, in which bad actors like the EPA would be forced out of business.

Aug 13, 2015 at 4:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterMikeW

As I have investigated stuff, and have some experience of cock up v conspiracy theory ....

The original cock up was due to ignorance outweighing the intelligence and experience of those who knew better.

The conspiracy has now started, to ensure that highly paid individuals within the EPA, are not held accountable.

Aug 13, 2015 at 4:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Wonder when the EPA email is to be accidentally erased and harddisks crashed?

Aug 13, 2015 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaul in Sweden

cherished: "Harry Huffman's assessment of Obama deliberately acting to America's detriment represents a remarkable challenge to have to accept but looks increasingly more accurate as time passes."

Just after Obama's first election win I happened to meet up with my old boss from the USA, a pretty right wing guy, originally from Derbyshire, but has lived in the US for 50 years. He described Obama as the "Manchurian Candidate" who'd been prepared for the presidency so he could bring the US to it's knees from the inside.

I thought he was daft - at the time. Now I'm not so sure. He removed the bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and more or less announced the "special relationship" was dead. He gave the first British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, a set of CDs as a present on their first meeting. He's been warmer to Dave, and now he's saying that Britain is the USA's extra special friend and should stay in the EU. IMHO outside of the Islamic world and Russia, the USA doesn't have a bigger enemy than the EU.

As for the EPA, go for cock up and watch it being ignored, or, like climategate, exonerated by several hand picked committees.

Aug 13, 2015 at 5:55 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Astonishing. Imagine if a mining or oil company had done this.

Aug 13, 2015 at 3:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterbernie1815

Bernie, imagine it was BP! Obama would be screaming blue murder!

Aug 13, 2015 at 6:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterHarry Passfield


"5. Go to point 1..."

Your moniker seems peculiarly appropriate.. :-)

Aug 13, 2015 at 6:31 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

"...I expect it's stupidity and incompetence, combined with the arrogant "we are the experts, you don't know what you're talking about" type of attitude..."

Add in a healthy dollop of "and there's nothing you can do about it, so eff off" and you're about there.

Aug 13, 2015 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterPiperPaul

The outcome was predicted (if perhaps underestimated) by the EPA themselves. From their May 2015 Upper Animas Mining District fact sheet (pdf):

Anticipated Results

It is anticipated that zinc concentrations in the Animas River below Silverton will be reduced soon after the bulkhead valve is closed. Sampling will be performed to assess the changes. Other changes may include an increase in flow from nearby adits, which EPA will also monitor.

Aug 13, 2015 at 7:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterGareth

Maybe Joe McCarthy had a point....

Aug 13, 2015 at 7:05 PM | Unregistered Commenterc777

stuck record 1.45pm You omitted some other items

5. Nobody is to blame or will be losing their job
6. We all have to remain in our posts in order to clear things up
7 As a result of 6, we will be taking our bonuses as usual.

Aug 13, 2015 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Bish, the originating local newspaper has posted a copy of the letter on its website:-

Aug 13, 2015 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterPMT

The gentleman who wrote the letter at the top of this thread, will now be subjected to a hate campaign, by the Green/Left,, as part of the EPA damage limitation procedure.

This is now more important to the EPA than limiting the damage caused by their cock-up.

Aug 13, 2015 at 10:21 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Geronimo, I started to wonder whether the EU was becoming the enemy when I found people in Syria preferred being paid in Euros to US Dollars, back in 2010.

Aug 13, 2015 at 10:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterLilith

The author of the letter, Dave Taylor, has been interviewed by Breitbart: “Geologist Who Predicted EPA Spill: ‘They Just Didn’t Think’” (August 13).

Aug 14, 2015 at 7:23 AM | Unregistered CommenterDouglas J. Keenan

Aug 13, 2015 at 10:21 PM | golf charlie
Any links? The guy deserves our support, if only for making an unusually accurate prediction, not that common in environment/climate issues.

Aug 14, 2015 at 8:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Thanks Doug, that interview is very interesting. Confirms what I said yesterday:

When asked if anyone from the EPA has attempted to contact him about his letter predicting a catastrophic spill, Taylor was emphatic in his response.

“No,” he says. “They don’t want to talk to me because they’re the experts.”

Aug 14, 2015 at 9:24 AM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Dave Taylor, having been caught being right, can now expect a smear campaign from the EPA. As a former geologist he just has to be in the pay of big something or other.

Aug 14, 2015 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

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