Friday, September 25, 2015

Government Negligence And Bulls**t

I wrote earlier about the government's incredible negligence and gross incompetence in causing a massive toxic waste spill into a tributary of the Animas River in Colorado and New Mexico. That spill also fouled the San Juan River, into which the Animas flows, along its path through New Mexico and Utah. Specifically, it was the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA, which this incident indicates is horribly misnamed) that demonstrated this extreme negligence and incompetence in their "clean-up" of a long-closed Colorado mine. That negligence included ignoring a warning from the closed mine's current owner, and threatening him with jail if he didn't stay completely away from the EPA's operations around the mine. It culminated in the toxic waste spill on August 5th, which was not reported — at least not to either New Mexico or the Navajo Nation — in anything like an appropriate time.

Still, there are things I don't understand — some in the way the story hass been reported and some in the story itself. Here are a couple of those things.

One thing is come of the reportage on the spill itself. It was reported on August 8th as a spill of more than a million gallons. By the next day it was reported as actually having been a spill of three million gallons — and that is how it has been reported ever since. But there's a problem with that. It was reported in early August, and is still being reported now, water is still flowing from the mine at 550 gallons per minute, 33,000 gallons per hour, 792,000 gallons per day, more than an additional 3 million gallons every four days. That means an additional 36.4 million gallons that have flowed from that mine from August 10th through today. Are the reporters trying to claim — without having the guts to say so — that all of the toxic waste was in the initial three million gallons and none in the more than thirty-six million gallons since? I'm not sure that makes any sense.

A second thing is related. The news stories keep referring to the pollution of the Animas River and (sometimes) the San Juan River through the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. But, in Utah, the San Juan flows into the Colorado River. The Colorado then flows into and across northern Arizona before becoming the boundary between that state and the states of Nevada and California. The San Juan is a tributary to the Colorado, so the water from the former flows into the latter — bringing with it whatever it's carrying. But it seems the reporters are trying to claim — without having the guts to say so — that all of the toxic waste was magically removed from the San Juan's water before it flowed into the Colorado River. I'm not sure that makes any sense.

Something I don't understand in the story itself is this: The EPA-caused spill is bad enough. So why would the EPA, with the connivance of other government agencies, want to make it worse by providing false and misleading information about it? But that is apparently what has been done, both in the information made available to the public and in their testimony to Congress. Yes, they have "taken responsibility" and yes, EPA has provided assistance to some of the affected people downstream. But significant chunks of the information EPA has provided has apparently been intended to minimize the seriousness of the EPA's screw-up rather than to provide accurate information on the problem they caused.

What's even worse, one of the major groups affected by the EPA negligence is being further damaged by the government (non-)response. The Animas and San Juan rivers provide a huge part of the water for the Navajo Nation — both drinking water and irrigation water for the Navajo farmers across the eastern part of the sprawling Navajo Reservation. EPA provided a series of emergency water tanks for drinking water shortly after the spill in recognition of this fact. But on the fourth of September, after the Navajo Nation requested additional assistance, EPA announced instead that it would be removing those emergency water tanks — tanks that are critical for the Navajos right now. Meanwhile, FEMA also rejected the Navajos' requests for assistance in recovering from the effects of the mine spill.

And neither President Obama nor his agency cronies appear to give a damn. All this has got to be hard for the believers in this Administration and its EPA. Even as they're waiting for another serving of their favorite Kool Aid.

My recommendation, only slightly modified from before, is that the EPA and its responsible contractor(s) should be shut down until the spill has been completely cleaned up and the cleanup has been verified by competent state authorities. And they should all be heavily fined. After all, why should the EPA and its subordinates be treated different from anyone else? Why should they be treated differently from the way they treat everyone else?

I noted in the prior article that "the EPA (like other government agencies) believes there's one set of rules for them and another set for everyone else." It's well past time for that to be stopped.

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