First Gold King Mine Spill Congressional Hearing Opens

September 9, 2015
Photo: Gold King Mine Settling Ponds, Aug. 12, 2015 (AP)
Water flows through a series of retention ponds built to contain and filter out heavy metals and chemicals from the Gold King mine wastewater accident, in the spillway about 1/4 mile downstream from the mine, outside Silverton, Colo., Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015.

the Gold King Mine near Silverton were "inexcusable."

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, chaired a congressional hearing on the spill Wednesday, a little more than a month after the Aug. 5 blowout released 3 million gallons of wastewater into the Animas River.

EPA chief Gina McCarthy declined to attend the hearing. 

“It looks to many of us that no one has been held accountable," Smith said. "There had to be negligence or the spill wouldn't have occurred. And yet the EPA doesn’t seem to acknowledge any negligence, it doesn’t seem to take any responsibility and that’s simply a disappointment I have to tell you."

Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colorado, also a committee member, said he thought there was “no real bad guy” behind the spill, which an EPA crew caused as it worked to end a long-standing leak. Colorado needs help treating acid wastewater that continually leaks from mines, Perlmutter said.