- The Washington Times - Monday, August 24, 2015

The chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee wants to hear from the EPA contractor on the Gold King Mine spill after learning that the agency knew about the risk of a blowout in advance.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, said Monday that he has asked the head of Environmental Restoration LLC to testify at the Sept. 9 hearing on the Colorado mine accident, which flooded the Animas and San Juan rivers with orange wastewater.

The chairman also has called on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy to testify before the committee.

“Both parties should be prepared to be more forthcoming with Congress than EPA has been up to this point,” Mr. Smith said in a statement.

“Releasing key pieces of information in the dead of night on a Friday is not exactly the model of transparency,” he said. “The public deserves to know why the EPA ignored the contractor’s concerns and forged ahead with this project.”

The EPA released a cache of documents late Friday in response to media requests that included a June 2014 work order showing that the agency had been warned about the risk of a blowout from the inactive mine near Silverton, Colorado.

EPA spokesman David Gray said in an email, “EPA will continue to make data and information publicly available as quickly as possible.”

He added that information was available at EPA.gov/goldkingmine and a community hotline was operating at 844/607-9700.

An EPA-led crew triggered the Aug. 5 accident, sending 3 million gallons of wastewater from Cement Creek into the Animas River and through the town of Durango, Colorado, before spreading to the San Juan River and the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement Monday that he still has not approved water from the river for farming and irrigation. He said he will wait at least until the Navajo Nation EPA finishes its testing this week.

He said five of seven San Juan River area chapter officers at an Aug. 20 meeting opposed reopening the river for irrigation.

“I am furious that the U.S. EPA has placed the Navajo Nation into this position. Our farms will not last much longer without water and our resources are depleting,” Mr. Begaye said.

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