Ag Policy Blog

EPA Moment of Irony on Water Quality

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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One definition of irony is a state of affairs or event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects. Certainly that's the situation with EPA and water pollution at the moment.

We've written so much at DTN about the Waters of the United States rule that it's almost easy to be desensitized to another round of news releases on the rule, which is set to take effect Aug. 28. Today, though, the American Farm Bureau started putting out some maps of Montana, Pennsylvania and Virginia projecting the potential regulatory expansion that could occur in those states under the new WOTUS rule. "That expansion comes as even major parts of the rule remain largely incomprehensible to experts and laypeople, alike," Farm Bureau stated. http://www.fb.org/…

The National Corn Growers Association also called on EPA to postpone the rule and championed Congress rescind it. NCGA expressed concern about the memos from the Corps of Engineers highlighting reservations on the science and legality of the rule.

NCGA cited a Corps memo in a news release, “Corps data to EPA has been selectively applied out of context, and mixes terminology and disparate data sets,” a May 15, 2015 internal memo states. “In the Corps judgment, these documents contain numerous inappropriate assumptions with no connection to the data provided, misapplied data, analytical deficiencies and logical inconsistencies.”

NCGA wrote McCarthy with the group's own reservations, noting "the agency’s field staff did not even have a clear or consistent understanding of how to implement the rule." http://dld.bz/…

The complaints from the farm groups carry a bit more merit at this moment as EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy is in Colorado and New Mexico coping with the 3-million gallon waste spill in the Animas River --- a spill caused by EPA contractors who were using excavation equipment to conduct an investigation at an old mine. McCarthy declared her agency takes full responsibility for the spill and was still trying to figure out the overall impact.

"Our vision is to protect public health and the environment," McCarthy said. "We will hold ourselves to a higher standard than anyone else." She added that her agency is "fully ramped up" to getting the data out there that explains the water-quality impact to communities.

People in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and at least two major tribes -- the Navajo and Southern Ute -- are still unclear what exactly the impact of the contamination will be. The video of that giant yellow plume moving downstream is actually eerie. Attorneys general in the states involved are already talking about suing EPA over the spill, as is the Navajo Nation. Beyond the potential contamination of people, there are the impacts of water shutoffs in the region to both livestock and crops. The Navajo reports as much as 30,000 acres of crops that could be at risk. http://dld.bz/…

EPA said they were going to be testing and sharing water-quality data up and down the rivers affected by the contamination. At a presser Wednesday in Colorado, McCarthy was criticized for EPA's slow response or lack of information provided to leaders in some of the states. Similar mining investigations across the country by EPA have been put on hold until the agency assesses what went wrong. McCarthy said there will be an independent investigation into the spill.

McCarthy said the early data shows the water is returning to normal in the areas of the Animas River that were first hit with the contamination. Nonetheless, there will be significant loss claims filed against the federal government for the losses of businesses and impacts to communities.

"The good news is that the data so far shows water quality does restore itself to a prior condition, but we have continued work to do," McCarthy said.

The administrator just forgot to add, "We're from the federal government. We're here to help."

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Jarrod Bennett
8/14/2015 | 10:40 AM CDT
Love that EPA is on record stating, "The good news is that the data so far shows water quality does restore itself to a prior condition". Sadly folks, this kind of reaction from EPA only happens when it is the federal government at fault. But hey, next time it's one of us in ag defending our actions, let's use their own statement as a defense. The solution to pollution is always dilution; no matter the guilty party!!
Curt Zingula
8/13/2015 | 6:57 AM CDT
Trouble with accountability, especially financial accountability, is that it falls on the shoulders of the taxpayers - we'll be the ones getting "hosed". But HEY, I like the EPA's philosophy that "water restores itself to a prior condition". That philosophy will work well for the sediment and nitrates running into streams after a heavy rain! C'mon EPA don't get hypocritical on us!
CARLYLE CURRIER
8/12/2015 | 10:28 PM CDT
There was a letter to the editor published in the Silverton Standard on July 30 predicting the very type of disaster which happened a week later. The author, Dave Taylor of Farmington, NM, went so far as to imply that the EPA wanted a disaster to push their agenda to make it a Superfund Site. The EPA needs to be held accountable!
CARLYLE CURRIER
8/12/2015 | 10:28 PM CDT
There was a letter to the editor published in the Silverton Standard on July 30 predicting the very type of disaster which happened a week later. The author, Dave Taylor of Farmington, NM, went so far as to imply that the EPA wanted a disaster to push their agenda to make it a Superfund Site. The EPA needs to be held accountable!
Raymond Simpkins
8/12/2015 | 9:11 PM CDT
Federal government is alot of help. E.P.A. and U.S.D.A. are the biggest waste of time and money.Can't wait for local governments and the public to hose them good.