EPA Administrator on Toxic Spill: ‘I’m Deeply Sorry That This Ever Happened’

By Penny Starr | August 11, 2015 | 5:22 PM EDT

Environmental Protection Administrator Gina McCarthy spoke at an event at the Resources for the Future in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 11, 2015. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy said Tuesday that the EPA is “taking responsibility” following the inadvertent release by an EPA cleanup team of millions of gallons of toxic chemicals from an abandoned gold mine in Colorado that flooded into the Animas and San Juan River valleys.

A reporter pointed out to McCarthy that if this damage had been done by a “private polluter,” a public apology would have already been issued by the CEO or other leadership speaking for the offender.

McCarthy said the EPA is “taking responsibility” and that in hindsight the agency will work to restore the public’s confidence that it has “the ability as well as the capacity to move quickly.” CNSNews.com followed up by asking McCarthy: “No apology?”

“Well, I’ve already said that this is a tragic issue – this is a tragic incident,” McCarthy responded. “I am absolutely deeply sorry that this ever happened, but I want to make sure that we react positively and in a way that’s credible and we move this forward.

“So I think we have people working in the region – we have actually people working in three regions, because it expands quite a bit, and there’s no question I think all of us feel badly that this happened – outside EPA and inside, and we’re going work to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but we’re also going to keep our eye on the prize, which is to make sure that people’s public health and their natural resources are protected,” McCarthy said.

Both New Mexico and the Navajo Nation declared a state of emergency after the spill, which is moving toward Utah’s Lake Powell, the source for much of the water used in the Southwest.

National Public radio reported that water samples taken after the spill showed lead concentrations that were 3,500 times the normal levels near Durango, Colo. The wastewater also contained manganese, zinc, copper and cadmium, along with other contaminants, according to NPR.

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