Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy on Wednesday ordered all the agency’s regions to stop field work in mines across the country in the wake of the Gold King Mine blowout last week, which sent 3 million gallons of heavy-metal contaminated sludge cascading down the Animas River, into Durango, across state lines and into two Native American reservations.
It is not clear how many mining cleanup sites this affects across the nation. The EPA had not respond to requests for comment as of Wednesday afternoon.
According to a news release, McCarthy sent a directive to regional administrators regarding ongoing field work at mines:
“While we continue to investigate the root causes of last week’s release of mining waste at the Gold King Mine in Colorado, we are instructing our Regions to immediately cease any field investigation work at mines including tailings facilities, unless there is imminent risk in a specific case.
“We are in the process of initiating an independent assessment by a sister federal agency or another external entity to examine the factors that led to last week’s incident.
“Based on the outcome from that assessment, we will determine what actions may be necessary to avoid similar incidents at other sites.
“While we stand down on existing field investigations and assessments at these mining sites, we also are instructing our Regions to identify existing sites with similarities to the Gold King Mine site and to identify any immediate threats and consider appropriate response actions.”