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Federal Criminal Investigation Launched into Gold King Mine Spill

La Plata County

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General is conducting a criminal investigation into last summer’s Gold King Mine spill in Colorado. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the agency wants to determine if anyone involved in the spill violated federal law. 

The agency revealed last week it’s been conducting the investigation along with the U.S. Department of Justice. It follows requests by several elected officials, including Arizona Senator John McCain and Wyoming Senator John Barrasso.

They want to determine if anyone within the EPA committed a crime in accidentally triggering the spill. Agency contractors caused the release of three million gallons of mine waste into the Animas and San Juan rivers last August. The EPA took responsibility, and continues to monitor water quality.

In addition, the agency says a larger evaluation of the incident will be put on hold as it conducts the criminal review. A spokesman for the EPA didn’t specify when the results of the investigation will be released.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.