Aug 01 2016
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), and SCIA member Senator John McCain (R-AZ) praised the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) announcement that it is conducting a criminal investigation into last year’s Gold King Mine disaster.
In May, Chairman Barrasso and Senator McCain sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting a Department of Justice criminal investigation into the EPA’s responsibility for the mine spill.
“I am glad to see that a criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine disaster is finally underway,” said Chairman Barrasso. “Tribal communities in the affected region have been devastated and the EPA has not taken responsibility for the mess it made. I hope this investigation uncovers who is at fault and holds them responsible. We will be watching closely.”
“The EPA OIG’s decision to open a criminal investigation into the Gold King Mine disaster is long overdue,” said Senator McCain. “This week marks one year since the EPA caused three million gallons of toxic, acidic, wastewater to rush into the Animas and San Juan Rivers into the Navajo reservation’s borders – devastating the Navajo peoples’ lands and livelihoods. There’s no question as to the EPA’s culpability for this spill and this criminal investigation is critical to ensuring justice is served for all those impacted by this terrible disaster.”
On August 5, 2015, an EPA-supervised crew at the Gold King Mine in Colorado released roughly three million gallons of wastewater into the Cement Creek, which flows into the Animas River in Colorado and then to the San Juan River in New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. The contaminated water contained heavy metals such as lead and arsenic.
Senator McCain first called for the investigation at a field oversight hearing on “EPA’s Unacceptable Response to Indian Tribes” in Phoenix, Arizona. Chairman Barrasso agreed to hold the hearing at the request of Senator McCain. Both senators have continued to raise concerns about the EPA’s role in and failure to effectively respond to the spill, which has devastated Navajo Nation.