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Health, Science & Environment

Reyes: EPA Denies Rumor That Mine Spill Was Deliberate

Judy Fahys/KUER
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes spokes to the State Water Development Commission on Tuesday, the day before visiting the Gold King Mine site in Colorado for the second time to do fact-finding for a possible lawsuit.

Attorney General Sean Reyes said he’s still gathering information for any lawsuit Utah might decide to file over the Gold King Mine wastewater spill.

He was part of a state team that toured the mine Wednesday -- the day after Utah lawmakers asked him about rumors circulating on conservative blogs and near the Colorado spill site: that the federal Environmental Protection Agency caused the 3 million gallon wastewater spill to justify a Superfund clean up that many locals oppose. Sen. Margaret Dayton, an Orem Republican and co-chair of the State Water Development Commission, questioned Reyes Tuesday about a previous visit to the mine site.

“Were you able to discern whether or not there was any truth to the fact that this was an accident on purpose so that they could qualify for Superfund money or if this really was an accident accident?”

Reyes toured the site again on Wednesday with EPA staff. He saw where the breach had occurred and where the EPA had set up retention ponds to capture contaminated water still flowing from the mine. He told reporters he’d also questioned agency staff about the rumor.

“I actually asked them, point blank, if they were aware of any evidence that might support the suspicion that people have about purposeful motives and they categorically denied any of that,” he told reporters in a conference call late Wednesday.

The EPA asked the U.S. Interior Department Tuesday to investigate the spill.

Meanwhile, the three states affected by it say they’re tallying the spill’s costs to recreation, livestock, farming, monitoring and any other impacts on health, safety or the environment.

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