By Paul Gable
The rush to see a major conspiracy by the EPA around the recent Animus River contamination in Silverton, Colorado is premature.
It is much more an example of what can happen with the current political disconnect in this country.
Conspiracy theorists center their argument around a letter to the editor of the local newspaper by Dave Taylor, a retired geologist with 47 years of experience in the field.
Based on his professional experience, Taylor correctly predicted, one week before the massive spill, that the EPA effort to divert leakage from mines in the area to holding pools would result in disaster.
“Eventually, without a doubt, the water will find a way out and will exfiltrate uncontrollably through connected abandoned shafts, drifts, raises, fractures and possibly from talus on the hillsides,” Taylor wrote in his letter.
Taylor said the EPA plan would eventually increase contamination in the Animus River and its Cement Creek tributary. He speculated this was the EPA plan all along so the agency could designate a Superfund site.
What Taylor did not mention, but locals in the area know, is contamination in the river was increasing slowly on its own.
The EPA has wanted to designate a Superfund site in the area for approximately 25 years. Local opposition said such a designation would decrease land values, hurt tourism and kill any future mining activity in the area.
A 2014 article in the local Durango Herald reported between 2005 and 2010 fish species were dying in the Upper Animus River and insect populations were disappearing. There are approximately 200 abandoned mines in the Animus River watershed. Cleaning and restoring these mine areas was a source of argument.
Some saw it as an obvious need, others denied the damage that can occur from mining. And nothing got done.
Obviously, the Animas River didn’t turn orange on its own. The EPA made a massive mistake by reportedly taking a shortcut and punching a hole in a containment bridge.
But, local and state officials cannot dodge all of the blame either. Left alone, the contamination in the river was not going to be cleaned up on its own.
Now there is no choice.
But is it really a conspiracy by an overreaching federal government agency? I think its too early to tell.