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KSJD Newscast - October 22nd, 2015

  • San Juan County, Utah Commissioner Phil Lyman is declining his County Commissioner of the Year award.
  • The Bureau of Reclamation has released a report indicating that the Gold King Mine wastewater spill was avoidable.

The disastrous Gold King Mine wastewater spill would have been avoided if contractors working for the Environmental Protection Agency had first bored into the mine from above to see how high the water was. That’s one conclusion in a report released Thursday by the Bureau of Reclamation. The EPA has admitted responsibility for the August 5th blowout, which sent more than 3 million gallons of toxic, discolored water pouring into the Animas River near Silverton, Colorado. The report says while several decades of events led to the failure, more recently it was an “inadequately designed closure of the mine portal in 2009” and “a misinterpretation of the groundwater conditions when reopening the portal” that led to the spill. The report also says such conditions “are surprisingly prevalent”. The report lists a number of factors that workers failed to understand, including the fact that water impounded behind a blocked mine opening can create hydraulic forces similar to a dam. The EPA had requested the independent report, which was peer-reviewed by the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The report notes that the Army Corps’ reviewer said while the report properly describes technical causes for the blowout, it should also have described what happened within the EPA.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman has chosen to give up the title of “County Commissioner of the Year” recently granted to him by the Utah Association of Counties. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Lyman sent a letter to the association saying he hopes to “remove an unnecessary diversion” by declining the award. Lyman was convicted of two federal misdemeanors in May of this year for his participation in an ATV protest ride near Blanding in 2014. His selection for the award prompted criticism, especially in urban counties such as Salt Lake.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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