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August 13, 2015

EPA Should Speed And Improve Water Testing

Among the most basic and simple questions that Coloradans want answered after the Gold King Mine spill are "what is in the water?" and "is it safe?" These are reasonable questions about the water in which we swim, paddle, fish, water our cattle and crops, and drink. The EPA's overall initial response to the spill was too slow and inadequate. While it has improved in many areas, the speed of water quality and sediment testing is still insufficient. The EPA has also fallen short in its communication of clear explanations of the results. The public rightfully expects the EPA to provide a full interpretation of its data as well as the raw data files. We need to know what the levels were in the river before the spill and how dangerous the current levels of heavy metals are to people and animals.

We are hearing reports that the initial water quality data is showing positive results, but the EPA has not shared this data. The EPA can better keep the public informed by posting the preliminary results in real time, for example with a notice that they remain preliminary and unverified. Increasing transparency and sharing information, with proper notifications about the stage of quality control, will help keep the public educated and up to speed on the quality of their water.

Yesterday, we joined with Senator Gardner, Representative Tipton and members of the New Mexico delegation to call on the Administration to ensure EPA improves its testing process and the dissemination of the results. We also urged the Administration to ensure the process is coordinated with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry so that it includes important human and animal toxicology data.

Our top priorities remain the health and safety of the residents along the river, cleanup and recovery, and making certain that state and federal agencies are taking all necessary steps to mitigate future problems. As we continue to make progress, we will also take steps to hold the EPA accountable and make sure we get answers about how this happened and how we can prevent it from happening again.

An update on water delivery for vegetable farmers:

Last week, on Tuesday our office heard EPA would not send water trucks to vegetable farmers who had lost their water supply from the Animas River. We asked EPA to expand their water delivery efforts to include these farmers at risk of losing their crops. On Wednesday, we got word that water was arriving in trucks for the farmers who need it.

 


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