DENVER – Federal investigators said on Monday they have opened a criminal probe into the 2015 spill of some 3 million gallons (11 million liters) of toxic wastewater from a defunct Colorado gold mine that was triggered by a contractor with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
At the urging of congressional leaders, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General is investigating the rupture from the Gold King Mine above Silverton, Colorado, that fouled waterways in three states and Native American lands, the agency said in a statement.
“Based on requests from several members of the House and Senate, the OIG is conducting both a program evaluation and a criminal investigation of the Gold King Mine spill,” the EPA said in a statement.
The OIG is an independent office that audits, investigates and evaluates the agency’s activities, the EPA statement said. Last August, a contractor hired by the EPA to slow seepage from the century-old stake breached a tunnel wall, unleashing a torrent of wastewater that had backed up behind the mountainside.
The orange-colored sludge, containing nearly 900,000 pounds (408, 233 kg) of heavy metals, poured into a creek that feeds the Animas and San Juan rivers and traversed into New Mexico, ultimately emptying into Lake Powell in Utah.
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