Presidential candidate Ben Carson has called for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make reparations to those affected by the massive Animas River toxic wastewater spill.
On August 5, the EPA accidentally released three million gallons of toxic, orange sludge into the river when conducting an assessment of the Gold King Mine near Silverton, Colorado. The mine waste contains arsenic, lead, mercury, and other potentially harmful heavy metals
Earlier this week, Dr. Carson — who originally rose to political stardom with his famous February 2013 speech at the National Prayer Breakfast — toured the Animas River and Gold King Mine area, during which he criticized the EPA as a bureaucracy that has lost sight of its essential purpose.
To prove that the situation is back to normal, and perhaps doing damage control for the Obama administration, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently took a big gulp of water from the river. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy has accepted full responsibility for the accident and pledged to provide necessary resources to facilitate a cleanup. Authorities now confirm that the water is safe to drink, and the river reopened for recreational use on Friday afternoon. Durango-area residents celebrated the reopening with a river parade on Tuesday afternoon with boaters, tubers, and bikers invited to participate.
Gov. Susana Martinez from neighboring New Mexico, where the spill spread downstream, has ordered state environmental officials to launch an investigation into what caused the disaster. She also claims that the EPA waited almost 24 hours to notify her office about the spill and wants to know why.
In a statement following his visit to the watershed area, Dr. Ben Carson declared that those affected by the Animas River spill should receive compensation from the EPA similar to what the agency would demand from a private-sector business if that business had been responsible.
“…I have also better learned of the short and long-term economic and potential public health impact this incident has fostered on southwestern Colorado, Northern New Mexico, and our treasured Navajo Nation. One wonders, if this accident had occurred at the hands of a private business, or even an individual property owner, would the EPA be as forgiving as they have been of themselves? I think not.
“The citizens, businesses and people relying on the vitality of the Animas River deserve complete, transparent and expeditious accountability on this matter from the EPA, and full compensation and reparations as the EPA would and has exacted from private business entities in similar instances. Further, I suggest that these reparations be paid from fines collected by EPA, and not by additional tax dollars from the General Fund. The EPA must face the same consequences and same accountability as they require of each of us.”
The retired brain surgeon, who is moving up in the presidential polling, also offered a prescription for a new EPA mission statement that would stress consensus and pragmatism rather than coercion and punishment.
“We all want a better environment. We all want to protect the environment for generations to come. We all want more common sense in the administration of our environmental laws and policies.”
Congress intends to hold hearings on the Animas River toxic spill when it goes back into session this fall.
[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images News]