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The House Science Committee has been spearheading the ongoing investigation into how and why the EPA managed to spill millions of gallons of water, tainted with mining refuse and heavy metals, into the Animus River, causing widespread environmental damage. The Committee, however, has accused the EPA of blocking Congressional investigative efforts, hiding documents and, even, doctoring video of the event in an effort to prevent the Committee from discovering any wrongdoing.
Just last month, Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the Committee, noted to media that the EPA had failed to meet the Committee’s deadline to turn over all internal documents related to the spill, and related to any delay the EPA might have faced in alerting residents.
“It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the EPA failed to meet the House Science Committee’s reasonable deadline in turning over documents pertaining to the Gold King Mine spill,” said Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). “These documents are essential to the Committee’s ongoing investigation and our upcoming hearing on Sept. 9. But more importantly, this information matters to the many Americans directly affected in western states, who are still waiting for answers from the EPA.”
The EPA is accused of creating a environmental disaster when its “cleanup” team tore through a rock wall and released millions of gallons of stored waste-water from the Gold King Mine. The mine had been leaking the waste-water at a much slower rate, and plans had been put into place to address the environmental consequences of the slowly-leaking mine by a coalition of community groups, including the EPA. It remains a mystery to Congress and residents of the Animus river basin, as to why the EPA decided to “go it alone” in the Gold King Mine cleanup effort. What also puzzles lawmakers is why the EPA waited almost 24 hours – and until the river itself was clogged with an orange sludge – to alert residents to possible ill effects.
Now, after the first several EPA officials have testified, Congress appears to have discovered – by accident – that the EPA doctored video of the spill, posted on its website, to omit statements, made by ground crew, that might implicate the EPA in the Animus river spill.
The Environmental Protection Agency was accused Wednesday of doctoring footage from the Gold King Mine spill, removing the audio of a worker saying, “What do we do now?”
During a House committee hearing on the accident, Rep. Bill Johnson, Ohio Republican, showed what he said was an original on-site video taken the day of the Aug. 5 spill, which includes the audio, and then the same video posted on the EPA’s website that beeps out the audio.
“The last few seconds of the audio has been removed to prevent the viewers from hearing the team on the ground saying, ‘What do we do now?’” said Mr. Johnson during the House Science, Space, and Technology hearing.
Johnson then questioned Mathy Stanislaus, the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response as to why the videos had been edited, despite a disclaimer on the EPA’s website claiming the videos were unedited (except for instances of profanity). Stanislaus was unable to answer. He did, however, note to Johnson, that the EPA was not prepared for the “worst case scenario” of a major mine blowout.
Hearings on the Animus river spill will continue for several weeks.