Senators Gardner and Bennet want answers from the EPA

Noel Brennan, KUSA

U.S. Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said the Environmental Protection Agency must respond without reservation and set the right example for cleanup after unleashing an estimated 3 million gallons of toxic mine waste into the Animas River.

Andy Corra, center, co-owner of 4 Corners Riversports in Durango, talks with Colorado U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, right, and Cory Gardner, left, on a bridge over the Animas River on Sunday morning in Durango. The politicians were getting a firsthand look of the damage done to the river after the Gold King Mine spilled about 3 million gallons of toxic waste into the water Wednesday.

The two senators toured the riverbank Sunday in Durango, five days after a mustard-yellow plume of wastewater cascaded down the shores of Cement Creek and into the Animas River.

“We are going to hold the EPA accountable to make sure that they meet the highest standard of response, and if that standard sets an example for other actors, that will be a good thing,” Bennet said. “But right now, our main concern is addressing this blowout.”

The senators were joined by local government officials, representatives from the rafting and agricultural industries and scientists who have been testing pH levels in the Animas River. They walked on a swaying pedestrian bridge that spans the river behind the Powerhouse Science Center and north on the Animas River Trail to about Rotary Park.

The EPA was investigating seepage from the abandoned Gold King Mine above Silverton on Wednesday when a crew removed dirt from the collapsed entrance and accidently unleashed a torrent of wastewater that had pooled behind the loose material.

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