"...using heavy machinery to investigate pollutants at the Gold King Mine, an abandoned site north of Silverton." Would it not have more prudent or efficient to take samples of the water by a human walking under his own power to the edge of the containment area or were they afraid of their own contamination? Any number of the known chemicals in the polluted water are toxic if ingested by humans, fish, animals, mollusks, crane/dragon flies (water insects of all kinds), especially in the high concentrations existing in that water. Selenium in and of itself can cause death if ingested in large amounts. Who knows how much of the chemicals penetrate the skin and poison the victim(s)?
The statement by the EPA is no different than the fallacious press releases created by offending corporate PR divisions: "The agency said impacts on wildlife and the environment in the area would likely be minimal." How can they say that when THEY THEMSELVES DO NOT KNOW WHAT IS IN THE WATER AND AT WHAT CONCENTRATIONS, which is why they were supposedly testing the water. Common sense would lead one to believe that the water was extremely toxic, especially when considering the extraction/mining practices during the period in which the ore was mined and processed for shipment.
So much for regulatory oversight. One of the first agencies to be assaulted and reduced to minimal operations (reduced funding, eliminating personnel, etc.) by Reagan was the EPA...in fact, he wanted to abolish it entirely. His successor, GHWB and then his spawn, GWB also did their damnedest to hamstring the agency in order to take the monkey off the backs of the corporate polluters. Add to these facts that the resulting rapid increase and ongoing new discoveries of SuperFund and other toxic waste sites (and the massive increase in the number of toxic waste incinerators across the nation) and you have a perfect storm of environmental devastation.
What is left unsaid by the EPA is that they contracted another private party (probably the lowest bidder for the contract) to do the work, which almost NEVER turns out well.
Will it never end?