A criminal probe has been launched to investigate a crime was committed by anyone associated with the Gold King Mine spill that was caused by a team working for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The Hill reported that existence of the investigation was revealed by the EPA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) revealed the criminal investigation related to its ongoing inquiry into the Gold King Mine spill on July 29.
“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 OIG said in the statement.
Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) requested a criminal investigation in May along with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a member of the panel.
“We ask that you review the circumstances surrounding the Gold King Mine spill to determine specifically whether evidence warrants the prosecution of any EPA manager, employee or contractor for the criminal violation of federal environmental law, criminal negligence, obstruction or any other crime,” they wrote.
“With the conduct of EPA employees and contractors having been stipulated as causing the Gold King Mine spill, DOJ’s involvement is necessary to affirm that the government is willing to hold itself to the same level of accountability as it holds private companies whose negligence results in serious environmental damage.”
The office went on to say its program evaluation, which it started shortly after the August 2015 spill in Colorado, will be suspended to allow the criminal probe, which includes the Department of Justice (DOJ), to proceed.
OIG spokesman Jeffrey Lagda declined to disclose any other details about the criminal probe.
The spill occurred when an EPA contractor doing cleanup work on the abandoned mine improperly moved an adit plug, causing about 3 million gallons of sludge with toxic heavy metals to flow into a tributary of the Animas River.
It turned the river and the San Juan River downstream bright orange, causing officials to close them for days.
The EPA has taken responsibility for the spill and paid millions of dollars to local governments to help them recover.